The Illinois Senate is currently reviewing a bill that would greatly expand the authority of public agencies in Illinois to enter into public-private partnership (P3) agreements.  To date, such authority has been limited to the Illinois DOT, the State Toll Highway Authority and, in limited circumstances, local governments.

Democratic Senator Heather Steans introduced the bill on February 19th.  Shortly thereafter, in a show a bi-partisan support, Republican Senator Karen McConnaughay became a chief co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill, known as the Public-Private Partnerships Act, would grant P3 authority to all public agencies in Illinois, including municipalities, local governments, school districts, universities, public building commissions and state agencies.  Potential projects under the bill include social infrastructure projects (schools, hospitals and other buildings), transportation facilities of all varieties, water and wastewater facilities, energy facilities, and other public assets and services.

The grant of P3 authority for social infrastructure projects is consistent with the emergence of social infrastructure projects in the United States, such as the Long Beach Courthouse, Long Beach Civic Center and UC Merced projects in California.

In addition to expanding P3 authority, the bill would create the Office of Public-Private Partnerships within the State’s executive branch.  The Office would promote the use of P3s, provide assistance to both public agencies and private entities interested in P3s, develop a database of potential P3 projects and promote uniform P3 practices.  More importantly, to pursue a particular project as a P3, the bill would require public agencies to obtain approval from the Office of Public-Private Partnerships to pursue a P3 project under the Act.  The only exception to the approval requirement is for P3 projects pursued by the Illinois DOT and the State Toll Highway Authority under the Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation Act.

A copy of the bill is available here.