The right to petition government is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and in Article 1, Section 5 of the State of Illinois Constitution (1971). This simple constitutional liberty is a foundational element that made American democracy unique among nations, and served as a model for the spread of western liberal democracy around the world.
On March 14, 2017, Illinois planning professionals assembled in Springfield for APA Illinois’ third annual Planners’ Legislative Action Day, #PLAD17, and exercised their constitutional liberties to petition their government. The weather was brutal, but attendance was minimally affected. The #PLAD17 attendees started their day over breakfast at the President Abraham Lincoln Double Tree Hotel and enjoyed a lively and engaging discussion with Tom Henderson, Executive Director of the Illinois Tax Increment Association, on the importance of legislative advocacy by experts such as planners on matters involving the planning profession, practice, economic development, and land use regulatory powers. We also discussed how to approach your legislators to effectively make your concerns known about legislation that affects the planning profession and practice in Illinois. Finally, ideas were shared about how to increase APA-IL's profile in Springfield and become a recognized asset for legislators concerned about planning and development in Illinois.
#PLAD17 attendees toured the Capitol, sat in on both House and Senate floor sessions, attended committee meetings, and met with legislators to discuss a set of legislative priorities. Among these priorities were bills concerning:
Municipal annexation powers;
Urban agricultural zones;
Regional storm water management;
Rehabilitation and revitalization tax credits; and
Small wireless facilities deployment on public rights of way and other properties.
The day was capped off by our End of the Day Reception at Arlington’s. Attendees shared their experiences over cocktails and appetizers and their thoughts on next year’s Planners Legislative Action Day. We were also treated to a surprise visitor, Rep. Al Riley (D-38th Dist.). Rep. Riley is a certified professional planner and was thrilled that APA-IL was becoming more engaged in the legislative process. He had many ideas on how the Chapter can become a resource for legislators and had very strong opinions, shared by the attendees, on the importance of Illinois planners making their voices heard in Springfield. Rep. Riley pointed out that planners occupy a very important and prominent role in the economic vitality of Illinois; they are, therefore, essential voices, in state policymaking concerning planning and development.
The APA-IL Legislative Committee will be working over the balance of 2017 to:
Raise awareness of legislative matters,
Use data to better target legislative action messages to membership, and
Educate membership on the importance of legislative advocacy, and
Provide recommendations on how members can get more involved in a way that balances legislative advocacy and responsibilities to their communities.
As always, if you are interested in becoming involved with the Legislative Committee, have ideas on legislative initiatives or priorities, or simply have questions about the legislative process, including how you can make a difference, do not hesitate to contact any member of the Legislative Committee.
We all work to make Great Communities Happen in Illinois. Legislative advocacy is absolutely part of that formula and we all can play a part in this process. Onward!