Also, ‘Home Alone’ law may be modified
Rockford leaders have groused for years that the city’s non-home rule status prevents it from charging businesses more than $25 a year for the privilege of having a state-sanctioned gambling machine on the premises.
An establishment can have a maximum of five machines, so the most the city can collect from one of those “Miss Lynn’s” places or your favorite restaurant and bar is $125 a year.
According to the latest report from the Illinois Gaming Board, as of January, Rockford had 449 video gambling machines in 94 establishments. At $25 per machine, that means the city can collect just $11,225 a year.
Rockford voters last year defeated a proposal to reinstate home rule in the Forest City, with 53.7 percent voting against.
Home rule cities can charge whatever they want. Springfield and Peoria charge $500 for each machine, for example.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, are working to increase Rockford’s per-machine charge to $250 a year, which would enable the city to collect $112,250 a year from those same 449 machines.
The measure, SB1558, has passed the Senate Executive Committee, “and now it’s going to the Senate floor” for a vote, Stadelman said Monday.
McNamara worked to find common ground on a reasonable fee with Jay Gesner, president of the board of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association.
“Quite honestly, a lot of the credit for this goes to Jay Gesner and the ILBA Rockford Chapter, who were always open to dialogue on this issue,” McNamara said. “We have a good relationship.”
McNamara said that state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, and Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, also back the bill.
‘Home Alone’ law
Illinois has the strictest “Home Alone” law in the U.S., too strict to be practical, Sosnowski says.
In this state, if you leave your 12- or 13-year-old son or daughter home alone or watching younger siblings while you go to work or even to the hardware store, you could be charged with child neglect.
Sosnowski believes that’s unreasonable, so he’s sponsoring a bill that lowers the age that children can legally be at home without supervision to 12.
“Over the years we’ve had instances where kids end up being at home without supervision” for valid reasons such as getting home from school before parents are done with work, he said. Parents shouldn’t get into trouble just because their child is under 14 instead of under 12.
So far, Sosnowski’s fellow representatives on both sides of the aisle agree. His bill, HB2334, passed the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 19-0.
“This is a more common sense bill where we leave more responsibility with parents,” he said. “We’re the only state having an age of 14; everyone else is 12 or under.”
Sosnowski first introduced a version of his bill in 2018. “I modified it so we have a good consensus on it, so I don’t see why it would be held up,” he said.
“We should protect single and working parents from a harsh state law under which they can be charged with neglect and lose custody of their kids for leaving a minor under the age of 14 home without supervision,” he said.
Sosnowski said parents struggling to afford child care “shouldn’t live under the fear of losing their kids” just because they are working to support a family.
Chuck Sweeny: firstname.lastname@example.org; @chucksweeny
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March 11, 2019 at 07:25PM