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Proposed law would give voice to legislature in Thomson prison sale

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SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers would have to approve all sales of expensive state property, including the Thomson prison in northwestern Illinois, under legislation pending in the House.

The proposal would require the state to receive approval from the General Assembly before selling unused, state-owned property valued at $1 million or more.

Property must also be unused for six years or three years plus three foreseeable years.

The Thomson prison, which is worth more than $100 million, would fall under these categories.

State. Rep. Mike Tyron, R-Crystal Lake, who introduced the measure, said the sale of high-priced surplus property should be debated in an “open and transparent” manner.

“I think the people of Illinois are thirsty for transparency,” Tyron said Thursday.

Currently, the governor has the authority to sell surplus property without the consent of the legislature, according to an opinion released by Attorney General Lisa Madigan in December. The opinion was requested by House Minority Leader Tom Cross, who contended Gov. Pat Quinn couldn’t sell the mostly unused maximum-security lockup in Carroll County.

The facility has received national attention in the last few months after the Obama administration proposed buying it and converting it into a federal prison, which could house terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, has not reviewed the legislation but said the Thomson sale was “pretty much a done deal,” especially after it was endorsed Wednesday by a bipartisan legislative panel.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted 7-4 in support of the sale of the prison to the federal government. Two Republicans crossed party lines to support the proposal.

The legislation is House Bill 4744.

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