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July 21, 2024

How The (Farm) Bill Became Law For Dummies; Yes, the Constitution Still Matters –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 10, 2023

Shelby Co., Ill. (ECWd) –

When Shelby and other counties were questioned on their practices of leasing out county-owned farmland to private farmers for their own personal profit, at least one county, Shelby, attempted to make it legal by convincing an out-of-district State Representative to introduce legislation, known locally as the “farm bill.”

The Illinois Constitution prohibits this practice, several appellate and supreme court cases prohibit this practice, the 2018 Legislator’s Annotated Constitution and numerous written Attorney General opinions agree that the constitution does not permit a county to lease out its property without a proper public purpose. As recent as 2021, the AG provided a letter to the former Shelby County State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke stating that there must be a public purpose and even referenced the constitution, caselaw, and previous AG opinions in their 2021 letter. There is a public purpose test found in caselaw which is applicable to this issue.

“The constitutional limitation on the use of public property is not avoided merely because a unit of government may be compensated for the private use of its property. Redmond, 86 Ill. 2d at 382; Yakley v. Johnson, 295 Ill. App. 77, 81 ( 1938). If the principal purpose and objective of a governmental activity is public in nature, it does not matter that there will be an incidental benefit to private interests. People ex rel. City of Salem v. McMackin, 53 I11. 2d 347, 355 ( 1972). Conversely, if the primary benefit of the use of public funds or property is private, an incidental benefit to the public will not justify a use or expenditure.” 

On January 1, 2023, State Representative Lance Yednock filed HB1076 in the Illinois House of Representatives with its initial language purporting to state that counties may lease out their farmland to public or private parties and that the receipt of monies for such leases was deemed to be the “public purpose of financially supporting the operations of the government.”

On March 20, 2023, Rep Yednock filed House Floor Amendment 1 replacing the affirmative vote requirement from “majority” to “three-fourths” of the county board then holding office and the maximum term of a lease from “99” to “5” years.

On May 17, 2023, Senator Jason Plummer filed Senate Floor Amendment 1 to HB1076, which removed language from the original bill referring to the receipt of funds having the public purpose of financially supporting the operations of government.

During a Senate Committee Hearing on the bill, several Senators knew this language was unconstitutional, and questioned Yednock on the language and asked him if he was attempting to change Article VIII, Section 1 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution with the inclusion of the public purpose language within the bill. He denied he was attempting to change the constitution.

On May 19, 2023, Senator Plummer clarified Senate Amendment 1 to HB1076 on the Senate Floor, and stated this bill does nothing to address the fact that counties and local units of governments must still abide by the constitutional [mandate of public purpose]. Passed the Senate with a vote total of 54 yeas and 1 present.

On May 25, 2023, Rep Yednock filed a Motion concurring with Senate Floor Amendment 1. Later, HB1076 with Senate Amendment 1 passed the House with a unanimous vote.

On August 4, 2023, upon the Governor’s signature, HB1076 became Public Act 103-0415.

For people to insinuate that this Farm Bill supersedes the Constitution and makes leasing of county farmland to private farmers a public purpose (or not needing a public purpose) is just plain wrong. To think that the legislature can simply pass a law and think doing so means the Constitution no longer applies is ludicrous. Those supporting such a warped interpretation are doing a disservice to the community when they speak on that point during public comment because it is spreading false information to the community and frankly becomes an embarrassing diatribe.

Watch for this public comment yourself, then read the actual Public Act:


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  • Michael Hagberg
    Posted at 10:57h, 10 November Reply

    Belleville leases two of its buildings for $1 per year (it’s unclear if the city also pays the utilities). They also lease a large storage area at city hall for $1 per year. And I’m working on finding out about agreements to allow city property for farmland, And recently the city purchased a college campus that is being leased to numerous entities. To date taxpayers have lost $500,000 on the campus, it would have been much more had the state not issued grants to reimbursed $4.1 million.

    Short of the expense of a lawsuit, what can the average watchdog citizen do to stop this?

  • Dave
    Posted at 11:03h, 10 November Reply

    Yes, the constitutions do matter… I believe the democrat’s gun ban law’s provision which mandates already owned guns be registered with the Illinois state police is an unlawful ex post facto law enacted in violation of both article I, section 16 of the Illinois state constitution and article 1, section 10, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. Because at the time a person acquired the gun, it was completely legal to possess it without a mandated registration. To then make it unlawful as Illinois did and say you have to register all your lawfully owned guns of a certain type or it’s a felony making unlawful something which was lawful when you originally did it is an ex post facto law.
    Governor Pritzker and the democrat-controlled state legislature violated article 1, section 16 of the Illinois Constitution’s Bill of Rights which states:
    “No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.” (Source: Illinois Constitution.)
    According to Black’s Law dictionary, an ex post facto law is: “A law passed after the occurrence of a fact or commission of an act, which retrospectively changes the legal consequences or relations of such”
    How much clearer can it be? The democrats unlawful gun ban contains an ex post facto provision. In the U.S. Constitution, there is a clause in article 1, section 10 which states: No State shall pass ex post facto Law. The law-breaking democrats who voted to enact the gun ban law shamefully violated both the Illinois state and U.S. Constitutions, the same constitutions they swore an oath to uphold.
    Their oppressive and tyrannical gun ban law persecutes Illinois citizens. They ignored the law of Constitutions when it’s their job to apply the constitutional law as it was drafted.
    We must make the government play by the law laid out in the constitutions, otherwise we will live in a police state.

    In Federalist Paper No. 84 (4th para), Alexander Hamilton says re: ex post facto laws (and of the importance of the writ of habeas corpus):
    “…The creation of crimes after the commission of the fact, or, in other words, the subjecting of men to punishment for things which, when they were done, were breaches of no law, and the practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny…”

    The democrat controlled state legislature is criminalizing gun ownership of certain types of arms that was completely lawful when a person took ownership of it, now the corrupt state govt is saying it is no longer lawful. That is an ex post facto law

  • NiteCat
    Posted at 13:59h, 10 November Reply

    So how do we stop our politicians from passing & trying to enforce these unconstitutional laws? There isn’t a judge or jury, especially in northern IL who won’t back them up even though they know better. Look at what they’ve let state & local politicians get away with just in the past few years. Did they restrain Gov Pritzker with his infinite illegal executive mandates over COVID-19? NO! Even the GA sat silent for 2+ years knowing full well it was up to them to enforce the procedures outlined under the state CDC. We are currently living in a tyrannical state with no concern for the citizens.

  • Gail White
    Posted at 21:27h, 12 November Reply

    It is unclear to me that this is in violation of the Illinois State Constitution. I have looked at the definition of “public purpose” and I would urge anyone looking into the matter to try to understand what the State of Illinois considers “public purpose.” Of course the best way would be to have an attorney give their professional opinion which I understand the former Shelby County States Attorney has done.

    • John Kraft & Kirk Allen
      Posted at 21:43h, 12 November Reply

      and the former Shelby County State’s Attorney received a letter form the AG stating the constitutional requirement of public purpose. That letter, other AG opinions, and caselaw are included in this article.

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