Many elected township officials have contacted TOI recently requesting additional information on the new requirements of the 2022 Economic Interest Statement. The form all elected and appointed officials are required to filed with the county clerk on an annual basis. These new requirements were added by legislation and take effect January 1, 2022.
TOI appreciates those who have already reached out, and our team immediately took steps to learn more about this situation, as many of you expressed concerns that the form seems to ask for additional information than has been required in past versions.
As a reminder, please recall this form is a requirement for ALL elected and appointed officials at the state and local levels, so everyone is studying the legislative changes carefully.
The specific changes made by the General Assembly (and signed by the Governor) appear in Public Act 102-644 and are now part of 5 ILCS 420/4A-103 as of January 1, 2022.
As part of our review, our team reached out to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, and we also consulted with private attorneys with township experience.
TOI provides the following recommendations on compliance:
First, the Annual Statement of Economic Interest is still required to be filed with your County Clerk no later than May 1 each year. This year (2022), the form clearly has a more defined set of questions new information related to your assets, debts, and interests. While this may appear to be a concerning new level of information to share, please know that the definitions of these key terms also have specific EXCLUSIONS in the law. This is important, as we do not want this new form to change your appreciation for Township Government or your willingness to serve as an elected public official.
Please review the actual language from the amended law (5 ILCS 420/1), that provides those definitions and exclusions. Then, feel free to reach out to your local County Clerk, as those offices have oversight of the form for LOCAL officials.
(5 ILCS 420/1-102.5)
Sec. 1-102.5. "Asset" means, for the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, an item that is owned and has monetary value. For the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, assets include, but are not limited to stocks, bonds, sector mutual funds, sector exchange traded funds, commodity futures, investment real estate, beneficial interests in trusts, business interests, and partnership interests. For the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, assets do not include: personal residences; personal vehicles; savings or checking accounts; bonds, notes, or securities issued by any branch of federal, state, or local government; Medicare benefits; inheritances or bequests, other than beneficial interests in trusts; diversified funds; annuities; pensions (including government pensions); retirement accounts; college savings plans that are qualified tuition plans; qualified tax-advantaged savings programs that allow individuals to save for disability-related expenses; or tangible personal property.
(5 ILCS 420/1-104.4)
Sec. 1-104.4. "Debt" means, for the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, any money or monetary obligation owed at any time during the preceding calendar year to an individual, company, or other organization, other than a loan that is from a financial institution, government agency, or business entity and that is granted on terms made available to the general public. For the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, "debt" includes, but is not limited to: personal loans from friends or business associates, business loans made outside the lender's regular course of business, and loans made at below market rates. For the purposes of Sections 4A-102 and 4A-103, "debt" does not include: (i) debts to or from financial institutions or government entities, such as mortgages, student loans, credit card debts, or loans secured by automobiles, household furniture, or appliances, as long as those loans were made on terms available to the general public and do not exceed the purchase price of the items securing them; (ii) debts to or from a political committee registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections or political committees, principal campaign committees, or authorized committees registered with the Federal Election Commission; or (iii) a loan from a member of the filer's family not known by the filer to be registered to lobby under the Lobbyist Registration Act.
(Source: P.A. 102-664, eff. 1-1-22.)
The term “tangible personal property” is used in the definition of asset and would serve to exclude a lot of items. Black’s law dictionary defines the term as “Corporeal personal property of any kind; personal property that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, touched, or in any other way perceived by the senses, examples being furniture, cooking utensils, and books.” PROPERTY, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).
When considering whether you may have to list an “asset”, you should note that the Illinois Department of Revenue has described “personal tangible property” as that which “exists physically (i.e., you can touch it) and can be used or consumed. Clothing, vehicles, jewelry, and business equipment are examples of tangible personal property… Paper assets that represent value, such as stock certificates, bonds, and franchises, are not tangible property.” Items like those in the description would be tangible personal property and would be excluded from assets that would have to be disclosed.
The term “debt” excludes “debts to or from financial institutions … such as mortgages, student loans, credit card debts, or loans secured by automobiles, household furniture, or appliances, as long as those loans were made on terms available to the public and do not exceed the purchase price of the items securing them”. In other words, most debts that people will have been excluded from the definition because most people’s debts are through banks, credit unions, or credit cards.
Please remember that completion of the form is required and cannot be ignored. If you have questions, you may contact your county clerk.
Please note that I am not an attorney. Further, that if you are looking for a legal interpretation of the statutory requirements outlined above you may consider contacting your township attorney.
(Source: www.ilga.gov; P.S. 102-644, effective 1/1/22)