11 months, 2 weeks ago By Jackson Adams, Illinois News Network
Existing buildings not affected, but costs of new buildings could increase by at least 25 percent; Governor expected to sign legislation
A bill passed the Illinois Senate that will require all new school buildings built in Illinois to include storm shelters that can withstand a force four tornado.
The bill, HB 2513, passed the Illinois Senate 43 to 13. It now waits for the Governor’s signature to become law. Illinois State Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) both voted for the legislation.
This law comes just as the Quincy School District is in the process of planning on how to proceed with new construction for its schools. A select committee is meeting privately and Quincy architectural firms are being paid around $250,000 to be part of the committee and come up with a master plan. The Quincy School Board also must decide when to ask voters for a referendum to fund the multi-million dollar project.
Some Republicans explained that they were not against schools having adequate shelter in schools, but they were against unfunded mandates.
State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said his opposition was out of principle.
“We have debated in different committees and on the Senate floor for years on the issue of unfunded mandates,” he said. “I’ll bet there is not a single member of this chamber, Republican or Democrat, upstate or downstate who hasn’t been back home and said, ‘I’m opposed to unfunded mandates. I’m opposed to Springfield telling you what to do and then not sending any money in order to do it’… this is an unfunded mandate.”
Other opponents to the legislation highlighted that the mandate did in fact come with hefty additional costs.
“The costs don’t sound big when you say 20 or 30 cents per foot, but the reality is these requirements could end up costing up to a million dollars,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. “If a school is in an area of high risk, they are welcome to do this at any time.”
Quincy School District Business Manager Joel Murphy said the committee has been made aware of the new law and its potential impact.
Proponents of the bill said it was only common sense and a desire to protect children that motivated them.
“I understand the word mandate is a scary word, but they are not always bad, especially when it comes to school safety,” replied state Sen. Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood. “To have an area that teachers can go to without a second thought I think is very critical.”
“This is about life and death,” said state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, “This is about strengthening the walls so they don’t collapse in on our loved ones. That’s a mandate I can live with.”
State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, explained that the bill only took effect if the building had 10 classrooms or more and would not impact older buildings that received upgrades, or buildings that did not house children.
“The change is in our mindset of doing things a little more consciously so we’ll be able to provide decent protection for our children and students,” insisted Koehler, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Koehler added that the American Institute of Architects supported the legislation.
“One of the safest places in most communities is the school,” said state Sen. David Leuchtefeld, R-Okawville, a former school teacher and basketball coach. “There are a lot of areas that you can get to, like hallways and so on and they certainly go through drill after drill to be as safe as possible… this would come at really great expense. I understand that these standards would require the ability to withstand 250 mile per hour wind. That’s really rare.”