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Unfunded Mandates – A Nightmare for Local Government Officials

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Carter Larry, MBA, MAOL  | President of Horton Safety Consultants

In Illinois, when the state imposes new regulations or expectations on local government or municipal entities, they have enacted what are known as state mandates. These state mandates tend to be done in the best interest of public safety, equality, or fairness.

Often times, when the state implements these new mandated requirements, the necessary funding or resources to complete the task is offered so that the burden doesn’t fall entirely on the municipality or local government agency required to make the required change. 

When the state imposes new regulations or expectations, but it doesn’t provide the financial assistance or resources, it is what’s known as an unfunded mandate.  When the state has unfunded mandates written into law, it becomes the responsibility of the local government or municipality to pay for the implementation of the law.  In the end, it is local taxpayers who end up footing the bill.  The raising of its citizen’s taxes becomes a nightmare for local government officials, especially those seeking re-election. 

In March of 2015, the Illinois Municipal League issued a “Report to the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force.”  That report documented that Illinois state lawmakers have issued approximately 59 unfunded mandates during the 2015 legislative session (IML, 2015).   The report said the Illinois Municipal League identified 266 new unfunded mandates on their members since 1982, an average rate of eight unfunded mandates per year. And the Illinois Association of School Boards documented the enactment of 145 state mandates imposed on schools since 1992, more than six unfunded mandates per year (IML, 2015).

The bulk of the most recent unfunded mandates appear to revolve around fire and police pensions.  However, they also address the following: requirements for municipalities, labor relations, public records and meetings, required training, health insurance, etc.  An example of an unfunded mandate that will affect every police department in the state is the required implicit bias and cultural competency training.

As of January 2016, the general Assembly wrote into law the minimum required curriculum for police officers.  50 ILCS 705/7 adopted the new rules and minimum standards that ALL police officers certified in the State of Illinois must have and/or meet moving forward.  Officers are required to now be trained in cultural competency, implicit bias, racial and ethnic sensitivity, criminal law, criminal procedure, Illinois Vehicle Code, etc.  The two major changes are the cultural competency and implicit bias training. 

The minimum certified training requirements a police officer must meet are governed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, and only Board Certified courses that comply with Board approved guidelines established on September 22, 2016 will be considered acceptable. Municipalities will now have to scramble to seek the appropriate training from a Board certified course and instructor.  The state did not address in the law how this training will be paid for or reimbursed, making this training yet another unfunded mandate. 

A number of local politicians complain that a large portion of a village’s budget is determined by the state government, as opposed to the local government or municipality. The same politicians maintain that unfunded mandates create a financial strain on local governments, and they are unable to create programs to benefit its citizens or reduce taxes for residents. They also assert that the unfunded mandates will ultimately remove any financial control out of the hands of local officials.

To see the Report to the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force, click on the attached link:


Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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