EFFINGHAM — The Effingham County Board on Monday passed a referendum calling for separation from Chicago and a resolution declaring the FOID card unconstitutional. The board received both support and opposition to the referendum and resolution from audience members in a crowd of nearly 30 people.

The meeting was held in the Emergency Management Agency training facility to accommodate the anticipated large audience.

Separation

The separation referendum was brought to the table by board member Heather Mumma. Mumma said that the referendum moved to the full board with an addition stating the board will collaborate through discussions about just the possibility of separating from Chicago.

“I’m hearing from my constituents every day through many varieties of communication that this is one thing they’d like to see on the ballot as a referendum. They all seem to have a different reasoning. The main thing I am hearing is we have spoken to Springfield through the Second Amendment resolution and also the resolution for the unborn, and they just don’t seem to be listening,” Mumma said.

“Also, (it’s) the taxation that we’re going to receive for proposed medical benefits that we don’t agree with, things that maybe many of the people in the county don’t feel are moral. I feel that the people should be able to speak.”

Effingham resident Shirley McEvers attended the meeting to speak out against the separation referendum. McEvers said she sees no benefit in separating the bottom portion of the state and making Chicago its own state; she cited a study by Southern Illinois University of Carbondale on state funding.

“Why would we want to separate from Chicago considering the tax benefits we have? Here alone in this county, we receive $84 million for Medicaid. Now tell me, if we separate off when the vast majority of the money is coming out of the suburbs of Cook County itself, where’s that going to leave us financially?” McEvers questioned.

“Who’s going to take on this debt that we’d have if we separate off? None of this really makes any sense unless you’re just putting this out on the ballot to put out a talking point. We’re all one state, and we should remain one state.”

Board Member Rob Arnold responded, saying the numbers McEvers discussed were released in August 2018, and a bill calling for state separation was proposed in February by State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville. Arnold said that Halbrook is now asking for more research into the source of those numbers.

Matt Pals attended the meeting in support of the referendum and the board’s decision to discuss separation with Chicago.

“I think it has to start somewhere,” Pals said of the proposed separation. “I think once you get two more counties, four more counties, 10 more counties, then they’ll have to listen because right now...it’s not always about taxes and having some extra money. It is something about morals and raising your communities so people stay here.

“This is one of the worst states for businesses, and I think we are going to see a mass movement of people out of this state, and then taxes are the only solution that Chicago has. Somebody has got to start taking a stand, and I applaud this board for at least trying something because they’re not listening.”

Local businessman Charles Heuerman agreed with Pals, saying the county board should be the entity taking a stand and calling for separation from Chicago. Menard County resident and separation movement leader Collin Cliburn was also in support of the county’s role in the separation, saying if the state was separated, the downstate portion would have a fair shake at voting in who it wanted and passing bills that would aid it.

Clark Phillips of Effingham spoke out against the separation referendum. Phillips said losing Chicago would mean losing enrollment in downstate universities and causing prisons to shut down.

“You would see universities going under. There’s a whole mess of things that would happen if you don’t have that money,” Phillips said. “People from Chicago are coming downstate to go to school. They’re spending money downstate. People are coming downstate, so I don’t see why we need to really worry about this right now.”

Prior to the board’s vote, board member Joe Thoele expressed concerns over whether or not separation was a local issue.

“I understand frustrations that everyone has with legislators in Springfield, and I have those same frustrations, but I don’t think this is an Effingham County issue. This is something that needs to be done by the entire state, not Effingham County,” Thoele said.

Thoele and board member Doug McCain were the only two board members to vote against the proposed referendum.

The board’s goal is to have the referendum on the March 2020 ballot.

Should Chicago be a separate state from the rest of Illinois?

You voted:

Firearm card

Meanwhile, the board passed a resolution that stated the county finds the FOID card unconstitutional.

Board Chairman Jim Niemann said the resolution’s purpose is to aid citizens in carrying firearms legally; Niemann recalled his recent frustrations with obtaining a valid FOID card after his expired at the beginning of the month, saying he could not file for a new one prior to notification from the Illinois State Police informing him his card was about to expire. He was notified Feb. 6. Even though he applied for a new card, it still hadn’t been sent when his expired. He received the new card last week.

“I wish if they were going to have the (FOID) that they would give the citizens the opportunity to remain legal within the confines of it because technically, you’re supposed to have a valid FOID card in your possession (when carrying a firearm), and for a week and a half or so, I did not,” Niemann said, adding ISP only gives a window of time to obtain a valid card after expiration.

State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler said the resolution, in part, aims to address the additional changes Illinois lawmakers are currently wanting to make to the FOID act that, as Kibler stated, make it even more difficult for ISP to stay compliant.

McEvers said she’s concerned with eliminating the FOID card because it takes away a step in obtaining firearms and therefore taking away a safeguard that could stop those who misuse guns. Eric Pals of Teutopolis said he supports the board’s resolution because it aligns with the Second Amendment, and he said eliminating the FOID card could prevent the state from taking away citizens’ rights to firearms.

“There’s a difference when you’re talking about rights and privileges. Rights are protected by the Second Amendment. Rights do not come from government. They come from God. They’re not regulate-able. They are not license-able,” Eric Pals said. “When you license a right, it becomes a privilege. A FOID card is a privilege and is therefore revocable by the state.”

Thoele was the sole vote against the resolution. He again said he felt the FOID issue was not something to be dealt with at the local level.

In other matters, the board:

• Approved two donations of $1,000 out of the county hotel/motel fund to Watson Homecoming and Edgewood Fest for fireworks.

• Approved bringing artisan booths to the summer Farmers Market.

• Approved revised plans to move a lactation room from a 6-by-10-foot room in the Effingham County Government Center to a 10-by-10-foot room.

• Approved the following appointments: Elwin Stuemke to the Altamont Fire Protection District; Gary Horn to the Dieterich Community Fire Protection District; Steven Rudolphi to the Watson Fire Protection District.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.