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Koeppel v. Ives

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 22, 1982.

WILLIAM E. KOEPPEL, COUNTY CLERK, ET AL., APPELLANTS,

v.

MARY IVES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, the Hon. Charles W. Wilson, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a direct appeal under our Rule 302(a) (73 Ill.2d R. 302(a)) from a decision of the circuit court of Peoria County holding section 162a of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 643a) unconstitutional on the ground that it conflicted with article VII, section 11, of the 1970 Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, sec. 11). We reverse the decision of the circuit court.

Section 162a provides that "propositions to establish tax rate limits either higher or lower than those otherwise applicable shall not be submitted more often than once in any one year." This controversy arose when the county clerk for Peoria County received requests that tax-rate propositions be submitted to the voters at two separate elections scheduled to be held in the calendar year 1982.

On November 30, 1981, the Peoria county board adopted a resolution pursuant to section 162a calling for a referendum on a proposal to increase the maximum tax rate for the general corporate fund of Peoria County from .0900% of the equalized value to .1125%. The resolution which was filed the same day with the county clerk directed that officer to make arrangements to submit the question to the voters at the election to be held on November 2, 1982.

On December 28, 1981, respondent, Mary Ives, filed a petition pursuant to section 162a calling for an election on a proposal to decrease the maximum tax rate for the general corporate fund of Peoria County from .0900% of the equalized value to .0675%. This petition requested that the county clerk arrange for presentation of the question to the voters at the regular election to be held on March 16, 1982.

On January 19, 1982, the county clerk petitioned the circuit court of Peoria County for a declaratory judgment as to whether the once-a-year limitation contained in section 162a permitted Ives' question to be presented to the voters at the March 16, 1982, election. If the court found that section 162a did permit Ives' question to be presented, the county clerk also asked the court to determine the status of the county board's request for a tax-rate election in November 1982. The county clerk was granted an emergency hearing on his petition.

Although neither party questioned the constitutionality of the statute in the pleadings or during the argument at the emergency hearing, the circuit court held that the limitation contained in section 162a on the number of tax-rate elections that may be held in any one year was unconstitutional because it prevented the effective use of voter-initiated referenda authorized by article VII, section 11, of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The circuit court consequently ordered the clerk to submit the Ives' question to the voters at the March 16, 1982, election. On that date the tax-rate reduction received a majority of the votes cast.

This court has often observed that the courts> must not lightly declare that a legislative enactment is unconstitutional. In Hubbard v. Dunne (1917), 276 Ill. 598, for example, this point was emphasized:

"`It is not for the courts> to amend or change the law under the guise of construction.' (36 Cyc. 1103.) The presumption is always in favor of the validity of the law, and unless it is in plain and obvious conflict with the constitution this court will not pronounce against its constitutionality, and in doubtful cases the doubt will be resolved in favor of the legislative power." 276 Ill. 598, 610.)

The courts> especially should avoid unnecessary interference with the system of taxation established by the legislature. See, e.g., Berry v. Costello (1976), 62 Ill.2d 342, 345-46; People ex rel. Kutner v. Cullerton (1974), 58 Ill.2d 266, 273.

In this case, the limitation on tax-rate elections contained in section 162a presents no conflict with article VII, section 11(a), of the Constitution of Illinois. Section 11(a) provides:

"Proposals for actions which are authorized by this Article or by law and which require approval by referendum may be initiated and submitted to the electors by resolution of the governing board of a unit of local government or by petition of electors in the manner provided by law." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, sec. 11(a).)

This language demonstrates that the right of voter initiative created by section 11(a) is a limited one which is subject to reasonable regulation by the legislature. Section 162a, therefore, is a permissible limitation on tax-rate referenda. It reasonably limits the consideration of such propositions to one election in ...


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