It's been three years since Illinois lawmakers and former Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on a unique way to raise money to help battered women.

In these times of financial distress for the state, members of the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner might do well to be just as creative in their quest to find new sources of tax revenue.

We're talking about the so-called "pole tax" championed by the likes of state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, and former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.

The law requires strip clubs to charge an admission fee, with the proceeds going to fund sexual assault services and prevention programs.

The tax on strip clubs isn't bringing in a mint, but Hutchinson said every dollar counts at a time when Rauner has been slashing or threatening to slash human service programs.

According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the tax generated $431,461 for the programs last year.

Apparently, the popularity of strip clubs was on the rise last year because the tax generated only $380,000 the previous year.

Still, the amount raised is still below the $1 million mark supporters had hoped to generate for rape crisis centers.

"It was lower than we expected, but it is now over $400,000 that the organizations wouldn't have had otherwise," Hutchinson told me last week. "I just want to make sure we continue doing everything we can to make sure these facilities are properly staffed. I've never been one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Rookie comeback

Members of the House and Senate traditionally give new members of the General Assembly a verbal hazing when they debate their first piece of legislation.

So it was not a surprise when senators began sparring with freshman state Sen. Neil Anderson over his proposal to waive license plate fees for combat veterans returning from active duty.

The Rock Island Republican, who was sworn into office in January, said offering the free plates for one year would make a veteran's transition back to civilian life just a bit easier.

Among those participating in the initiation process was state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican. He asked Anderson if he was nervous, given that he was presenting his first bill.

Anderson, a firefighter, didn't flinch.

"There's nothing on this floor that could make me nervous, senator. I run into burning buildings for a living," Anderson said.

The airplace debacle

It's back to the drawing board for state officials who are trying to liquidate part of the state airplane fleet.

For the second time in a year, an effort to sell the planes via an online auction fell short of a goal to get rid of five planes.

Only one of the planes was sold. A buyer paid $66,842 for a 1978 Cessna. No one submitted bids on more expensive passenger planes.

A similar scenario played out last year when just two planes sold.

Although Gov. Bruce Rauner and his predecessor, Pat Quinn, don't agree on much, they are in lockstep when it comes to selling the planes.

Here's what the Rauner folks said after the latest failed sale.

"The administration intends to sell the remaining aircraft in a manner that is most advantageous and most profitable to the state," noted Meredith Krantz, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

In the meantime, officials are weighing whether to offer the planes for sale through some other venue or just wait until the market conditions for old airplanes begins to improve.

History lesson

When the Legislature is in session, school students often trek to the Capitol to spend a day serving as a page for a local lawmaker.

Last week, Morton junior high student Casey Hoffmire spent a day helping state Rep. Keith Sommer, a Republican from Morton.

She came away with a historical artifact linked to her family.

Sommer said years ago he received a small booklet from Clarence Yordy, who had served as a delegate during the state's last constitutional convention in 1970.

The book included personal notes Yordy had taken during debates on various issues related to the convention.

After keeping the book in his desk for years, Sommer presented it to Hoffmire as a family keepsake last week. Yordy, it turns out, is Hoffmire's great-grandfather.

"I wanted to return it to the family," Sommer said.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


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