APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR
L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), as intervenor, brought a declaratory judgment action against Matthew J. Danaher, clerk of the circuit court of Cook County (Danaher), alleging that they are "units of local government" and consequently should not be required to pay any filing fees to the clerk of the circuit court pursuant to section 14.1 of "An Act concerning fees and salaries * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 53, par. 31.1), which in pertinent part states:
"No fee provided herein shall be charged to any unit of local government or school district unless the court orders another party to pay such fee on its behalf." *fn1
After the filing of the complaint, the parties' answers, and motions for summary judgment by all parties, the trial court declared that both CTA and CHA were "units of local government" within the meaning of article VII, section 1 of the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and found that they were exempt from the payment of filing fees pursuant to the above statute. It is from this determination that Danaher prosecutes this appeal.
• 1 On appeal Danaher urges that neither CTA nor CHA are within the meaning of the phrase "units of local government" as used in the 1970 Constitution and have not been designated as such by statute. Alternatively Danaher urges that CTA and CHA are not special districts because they lack the requisite fiscal and administrative independence. CTA and CHA assert that they are "special districts," or alternatively "units designated as units of local government by law."
Both CTA and CHA were designated by statute as municipal corporations *fn2 at the time of their legislative creation. By statute, both CTA and CHA have considerable autonomy. CTA was established pursuant to the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act (MTAA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1945, ch. 111-2/3, par. 301 et seq.). Its duty is to acquire, construct, own, operate and maintain, for public service, a public transportation system within metropolitan Cook County. Sections 8 and 9 of MTAA give CTA the power to contract with other entities and to purchase and dispose of land. Sections 12 and 15 authorize CTA to issue revenue bonds and to solicit and accept Federal and State grants. CHA was established pursuant to the Housing Authorities Act (HAA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1935, ch. 67 1/2, par. 1 et seq.). Its duty is to prepare, carry out, construct and operate low income housing projects. Sections 8.1-8.8 of HAA give to CHA the power to contract with other entities, to purchase and dispose of land, to obtain property by eminent domain, to provide for the construction, operation and management of public housing units, to issue revenue bonds, and to solicit and accept Federal and State grants. Neither CTA nor CHA has any taxing power.
With this background information we must decide what the constitutional convention had in mind when it adopted the definitional section (section 1, article VII) which is the basis for the dispute between the parties in the instant case.
The 1970 Illinois Constitution, article VII, section 1 provides:
"`Municipalities' means cities, villages and incorporated towns. `Units of local government' means counties, municipalities, townships, special districts, and units, designated as units of local government by law, which exercise limited governmental powers or powers in respect to limited governmental subjects, but does not include school districts."
Under the constitutional definition of "units of local government" it is our opinion that plaintiffs are "special districts" obviating the necessity of considering whether they are "units designated as units of local government by law."
The 1870 Illinois Constitution in effect at the time the 1970 constitutional convention convened contained no reference to types of local governments. The 1870 Constitution contained no restraint on the legislature in the creation, identification or classification of local governments. Consequently, with the growth of the State and the demands by the citizens for local government, pursuant to statute, approximately 6,500 types of government were established in Illinois by 1970. These units could be generally classified as counties, townships, municipalities (e.g., cities or villages), school districts and a variety of special districts. *fn3 Faced with the desire to establish "home rule" in Illinois, the convention devised a modern local government article which, for the first time in any Illinois constitution defined the types of Illinois local governments. Article VII, the local government article in the 1970 Constitution, sets forth the powers given to the various local governments in Illinois.
We have reviewed the debates of the constitutional convention (5 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention 4207-08, 4247, 4527-28; hereinafter cited as Proceedings), the committee proposals and reports (7 Proceedings 1569-1998, 2479, 2556, 2603), and the verbatim transcripts (4 Proceedings 3025-38, 3440) of the convention insofar as they deal with section 1, which is new to the text of our constitutions. Its purpose is to define the phrase "units of local government" and "municipality" (7 Proceedings 2724). It is the outgrowth of the desire on the part of the convention to use key terms which would be uniformly used throughout the local government article of the 1970 Constitution. The 1970 Illinois Constitution recognizes three categories of State and local government: the State and its agencies, units of local government, and school districts. (Ill. Ann. Stat., Ill. Const., art. VII, § 1, Constitutional Commentary (Smith-Hurd 1971); see 4 Proceedings 3024-25.) The following is a sample illustration of the recognition of these categories in the constitution. Article 1, The Bill of Rights, section 18, reads that equal protection of the laws shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex by the State or its units of local government and school districts." Article VII, Local Government, section 10, provides for intergovernmental cooperation and at (a) says that "units of local government and school districts" may contract or otherwise associate among themselves, with the State or other States. Article VIII, Finance, contains the following references: section 1(b) reads that "[t]he State, units of local government and school districts shall incur obligations for payment or make payments from public funds only as authorized by law or ordinance"; section 1(c) reads that reports and records of the obligation, receipt and use of public funds of the "State, units of local government and school districts" are public records available for inspection by the public according to law; section 2 also distinguishes between the State and units of local government or school districts; and section 4 provides for systems of accounting that shall be used by "units of local government and school districts."
In our opinion the framers of the 1970 Constitution intended to recognize only three levels of government: the State and its agencies, municipalities and units of local government, and school districts. Section 1 represents the intent of the convention to find and adopt a definition for all the myriad of types of local governments in Illinois. We find no intent on the part of the convention to exclude any of the then existing types of local governments. As stated by Delegate Parkhurst, "The proposed article does not constitutionally abolish a single unit of local government." (4 Proceedings 3024.) The other feature of the then existing local governments that concerned the delegates was the manner in which persons were appointed to the boards of the various types of local governments (4 Proceedings 3440). In some, the judiciary had appointed the officials. The 1970 convention, after ...