A measure that would require the state to reopen the Hardin County Work Camp open is on its way to the Senate, but only after a heated, hour-long debate Tuesday in the House.

Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps said his bill would revive the largest employer in Hardin County and only cost the state $1 million, but tempers flared when Republican Rep. Ron Sandack began questioning how the bill would be funded.

“You know what, we’ve got to stop this,” Phelps said. “We can’t afford to keep closing these facilities.”

Sandack said there are plenty of other $1 million measures across the state lawmakers could act on “if there were discussions had between the leaders and the governor over a budget and some reforms,” Sandack said.

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While expressing support for work camps as an alternative to more costly prisons, opponents of the bill said it would throw good money at a crumbling facility.

Phelps asked for Republicans to join him and vote for the measure.

Republican Rep. Reginald Phillips asked Phelps if he was willing to join Republicans in some of their efforts, such as allowing Gov. Bruce Rauner to fund higher education and tuition assistance grants by sweeping money from other funds.

“Would you vote to allow the governor to sweep funds to pay for MAP grants and higher education?” Phillips asked. “Because if you will, Brandon,” Phillips said, “I’ll make a deal with you here.”

“You guys need to get out of Rauner Town,” Phelps said.

House Bill 4326 passed 69-34 and now heads to the Senate. The Department of Corrections closed the camp Jan. 1 in a cost savings move.


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