A Publication of WTVP

The Illinois General Assembly worked through Memorial Day weekend to bring the spring legislative session to a close. Avoiding back-to-back overtime sessions, the House and Senate approved the state’s $57.9 billion budget by the May 31 deadline. If the session would have extended into June, a three-fifths majority vote from both the Senate and House chambers would have been required to pass legislation instead of a simple majority.

There were several components of legislation this spring that were of interest to the Illinois Farm Bureau and its membership.

In May, this article covered the Recreational Use of Land and Water Areas Act, which would provide liability immunity for landowners. The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association was opposed to this legislation but, in the last few days of session, did offer a small step in addressing needed changes to this legislation. Senate Bill 251 was amended to provide limited liability under the act for individuals who go hunting or shooting on private land. Activities associated with hunting and shooting, like operating an ATV while hunting, putting up a deer stand, scouting, etc. also will be awarded the limited liability coverage.

Unfortunately for Illinois farmers and landowners, the Farm Bureau hasn’t been successful yet in getting issues like fishing, camping, hiking, ATV riding, and other recreational activities added back into the Recreational Use of Land and Water Areas Act. Legislation with complete liability protection for landowners would likely lesson the rapid increase in recreational land values and lessen the state’s recent enthusiasm for purchasing land.

Legislation increasing the non-resident archery permits to 20,000 was approved by the General Assembly. HB 1074 includes language that no less than 20,000 non-resident archery permits shall be issued and increases the non-resident archery permit in 2005 by $100. In each of the following two years, the fee will increase an additional $50 per year. In-state deer hunting advocacy groups were opposed to increasing the non-resident archery deer permit cap in statute, believing the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) should set the number of permits by rule so IDNR can manage the state deer herd in a balanced manner.

HB 112 addresses the use of a 2 percent blended bio-diesel in state and local government vehicles. Beginning January 1, 2006, all diesel-powered vehicles owned or operated by the state; any county or unit of local government; any school district; any community college, public college, or university; or any mass transit agency must, when refueling at a bulk central fueling facility, use a blend containing 2 percent bio-diesel fuel, where available, unless the engine is designed or retrofitted to operate on a higher percentage of biodiesel.

The Peoria County Farm Bureau applauds Peoria Charter Coach Bus Company for recently converting to an 11 percent bio-diesel blend. The move was good for the company’s bottom line; adds lubricity, which extends engine life; lessens harmful exhaust emissions; and makes a lot of soybean farmers very happy. IBI