Home Rule

Home rule has been available to Illinois municipalities and counties since July 1, 1971, the effective date of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. It exists in some form in nearly every other state, most of which providing for it by constitutional grant, with the remainder defining home rule by statute. Unlike home rule in many other states, there is no charter requirement in Illinois. Once the requisite population is attained or form of government is adopted (as is the case for counties) or a referendum is approved, home rule powers automatically become available.
In February 2010, a referendum to make the Village of Midlothian a home rule unit of government was passed when over 58% of those voting voted “Yes” to Home rule.

A. Historical Background

Before the 1970 Illinois Constitution, municipalities and counties had only the authority to act given them expressly by the Illinois General Assembly. Without an explicit grant of power to act granted by the Illinois legislature, a unit of local government could not act. If there was a possible municipal ordinance a municipality wanted to adopt, but the Illinois statutes were silent, the municipality could not adopt such ordinance.

Once the 1970 Illinois Constitution was adopted, home rule units were able to adopt ordinances pertaining to local issues without the requirement of a specific grant of power to local governmental units from the Illinois legislature.

B. Home Rule Authority

To say simply that the concept of home rule reverses Dillon’s Rule (see §7.6 above) is to understate the dramatic change in state-local relations introduced by the 1970 Constitution. Numerous Illinois Supreme Court cases illustrate the proposition that home rule units may enact many kinds of ordinances and take other actions that are not authorized by statutes or that are in apparent contravention of statutes. Clearly recognized in these cases is the idea that home rule ordinances may supersede the apparent effect of state laws.

In a series of cases, Illinois courts have consistently reaffirmed the idea that home rule ordinances can prevail over state laws. The essence of home rule power in Illinois with respect to matters pertaining to its government and affairs and absent preemption is that a home rule unit (1) may act when no express statutory authority exists, (2) may act when statutes suggest a restriction, and (3) may act in the face of or in contravention of proscriptive state statutes.