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May 19, 2024

Attorney Tom Finks Failed To Provide Legal Opinion On Leasing County Farm; Misinformation Spreading –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On May 8, 2024

Shelby Co., Ill. (ECWd) –

During the last Shelby County Farm Committee meeting, which did not happen due to no quorum in attendance, local attorney Finks, who was on the agenda to present a legal opinion on the farming of the Shelby County Farm, failed to provide any such opinion during this meeting. Granted, it was an informal gathering since there was no quorum, but he appeared to only be prepared to counter verbal arguments against farming, instead of presenting what was hyped as his legal opinion. Watch the video starting at about the 12:20 mark HERE.

We can only conclude any legal opinion he may have had was not worth much, as it was never presented.

In other happenings, a local Facebook group in Shelby County advocating for leasing or farming the county farm, used an outdated post from a lobbying firm, which pointed to an outdated newspaper article containing language not found within the approved and signed-into-law HB 1076 (“The Farm Bill”), in an attempt as swaying public opinion.

The Shelby County Illinois Democrat Party also took the bait, along with Jake Cole (twice), and repeated the posting of the outdated language contained within the outdated article.

For the record, we have never indicated HB1076 was unconstitutional, or that the county could not farm the farm, only that leasing it to a private farmer would constitute a violation of the constitution’s requirement of a “public purpose” as that term has been applied by various Attorney General opinions.

From among the misinformation (emphasis ours):

As the article states, “If signed by Pritzker, the bill would amend the Counties Code, effective immediately, to clarify that, upon a three-fourths vote of the full county board, a county may lease farmland it owns for up to five years at a time to either public or private entities for the ‘public purpose of financially supporting the operations of the government,’ including via a cash-rent lease, crop-sharing arrangement or custom farming arrangement.” “

From the actual passed and signed HB1076 (now Public Act 103-0415) Please click the link and read it straight from the General Assembly’s website:

. . . upon three-fourths vote, by the full county board, the county board may lease farmland acquired or held by the county for any term not exceeding 5 years. Farmland may be leased to either public or private entities via a cash lease, crop-sharing arrangement, or custom farming arrangement. . . .

There is no language within the actual signed Public Act stating “for the ‘public purpose of financially supporting the operations of the government,’”  – It does not exist.

***

The legislative history of HB1076:

  • The only time such “public purpose” language was ever reduced to writing was in its original filing:  Introduced.  
  • Later, at a Hearing on HB1076, House Sponsor Yednock was asked if his intent with that specific language was to amend the Illinois Constitution, and his response was a denial that he was attempting to change the constitution.
  • The bill was amended by Senate Sponsor Plummer to remove the “public purpose” language, among other changes, and during the Senate floor debate the sponsor clearly stated that the counties would still have to comply with constitutional requirements (ie: Article VIII, Section 1).
  • Governor signed it into law as Public Act 103-0415.

 

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