State Sen. Bill Haine is pushing legislation that he says will keep money in place for local task force that investigates car thefts.
Haine, an Alton Democrat, says his legislation will provide a steady source of revenue for the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force.
The agency, like similar ones across the state, is funded through fees paid by auto insurance companies.
The fees — $1 per policy — are put into a state fund. With the state in a budget crunch, Gov. Bruce Rauner in January froze all state grants, including the $6 million in funding for the auto-theft task forces, while his administration reviews them.
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Haine’s bill would put the fees into an account administered by the insurance industry, rather than the state’s general revenue fund. The new account would be audited annually.
“It’s a private fee, imposed by the insurance companies on themselves,” Haine said. “It should not be going to the general revenue fund.”
The task forces use personnel who are on loan from local police departments. The officers’ salaries are paid by the task force. Proponents of the units say reducing vehicle thefts saves money for consumers.
“It pays for itself eight times over,” Haine said. “We need this.”
Haine’s bill also would widen the authority of the task forces. It would allow them to investigate vehicle-related fraud and to “improve compliance” with laws that require motorists to have auto insurance.
Haine, chairman of the Senate’s Insurance Committee, said he has worked with Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, on how to keep the program afloat.
Gary Brewer, director of the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force, said his unit still has some money available.
"There is currently $1.5 million left in our account. If we lose any more funding we will have no resources to perform multi-jurisdictional investigations, which will cause local law enforcement agencies to take up the task, thereby costing them more money," Brewer said.
Investigations conducted by the metro-east unit have resulted in more than 3,000 arrests since 2000 and more than 1,000 convictions.
Haine’s legislation, House Bill 3382, has passed the House and will be sent to the Senate Insurance Committee.