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Senate Week in Review: September 18-22, 2017

New laws were signed during the week to spur economic development, and to protect property owners while targeting criminal activity.
 
EDGE Tax Credit Signing
 
On September 18, the long-awaited overhaul of the Illinois Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit legislation was signed into law.  House Bill 162 was a bipartisan measure that supporters say is a critically important tool to helping boost economic development in Illinois by encouraging job creation, growth and competitiveness.
 
Key updates to the law encourage more transparency, requiring the EDGE agreements to be posted within 10 days of the project being secured in Illinois.  Additionally, incentives will encourage Illinois employers to expand their businesses into more economically-depressed areas of the state, while eligibility thresholds will be lowered to allow more small businesses to grow in Illinois.
 
Proponents of the new law underscore the important role the EDGE program plays in border communities, which are frequently competing with neighboring states.  The EDGE program helps these border communities remain competitive by keeping established businesses in Illinois and encouraging new job-creators to settle in-state.
 
More information about the EDGE tax credit program is available at
https://www.illinois.gov/dceo/ExpandRelocate/Incentives/Pages/EDGE.aspx.
 
Civil Asset Forfeiture Revamp Becomes Law
 
The Governor also signed legislation during the week to restructure Illinois’ civil forfeiture laws.

House Bill 303 seeks to strike the proper balance between targeting criminal enterprise and safeguarding the rights of innocent property owners.  The new law seeks to improve the current system by providing increased protections for property owners and requiring greater accountability from law enforcement.

Asset forfeiture laws target the heart of much criminal activity – the financial gain.  Law enforcement finds the seizure of monetary assets to be an effective way to target drug trafficking organizations and high-level drug suppliers.

However, when asset forfeiture is not utilized appropriately it can have a significant, negative economic impact on innocent property owners.  In some instances, innocent parties have been forced to forfeit their cash, vehicles, or even their homes, creating financial insecurity and disrupting their lives and the lives of their family members.

Under the new law, Illinois’ civil forfeiture law mirrors federal standards, shifting the burden of proving guilt to the government in order to seize property, instead of requiring the property owner to prove their innocence.  The government must also demonstrate a higher burden of proof, increasing from probable cause to a preponderance of evidence.  The new law also creates an expedited process for innocent owners to have the cases adjudicated more quickly.

Additionally, the law requires new data collection with regard to seizure of property by police departments and forfeitures by prosecutors in Illinois.  The information must be reported to the State Police, and then posted on ISP’s website, so that taxpayers and lawmaker can determine how much property is being seized by different law enforcement agencies in Illinois; how much and what type of seized property is being forfeited; the amount of forfeiture proceeds received by law enforcement agencies; and how those agencies spend the money.

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