SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House on Tuesday sent the governor a bill that would allow state police to install radar-equipped cameras to catch motorists who speed in construction zones.
"This bill will save lives," said state Rep. Paul Froelich, R-Schaumburg. "We will make it safer for the men and women who work in these construction zones."
Despite higher fines, increased police presence and a public awareness campaign by the Illinois Department of Transportation, more than 30 people were killed in construction zones last year alone, including five highway workers.
State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said he was uncomfortable with the "cop in a box" concept, but said the state has tried everything else it could think of to slow down drivers in construction zones and nothing seems to have worked.
Construction zone safety is an issue close to Black's heart. Norvan Thomas "Torn" Petersen, 66, of rural Rossville, a friend of Black's who worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation, was killed in July 1999 while sealing cracks along Illinois 1 just south of Danville.
There have been several other construction zone fatalities in East Central Illinois in recent years, particularly along Interstate 74 east of Urbana.
State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, a former Champaign County prosecutor, questioned whether the pictures the construction zone cameras take would contain all of the elements necessary to obtain a conviction.
"Well-intentioned as this is?I don't think this is enforceable, practically speaking," Rose said. "There's no way in heck that any prosecutors are going to be able to prove these offenses."
The legislation, HB 4012, requires that the camera must get a clear photograph of the driver, as well as the vehicle and license plate, while the car is speeding in a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present. If the driver cannot be identified in the picture, the owner of the car would not be responsible for the fine. The bill also requires signs to notify drivers that cameras are present.
State Rep. Robert Molaro, D-Chicago, said he hoped the signs themselves would be enough to scare potential speeders into slowing down.
The legislation passed the House on a vote of 107 to 8. Rose and state Rep. Shane Cultra voted no, while Black and state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted yes.
If the governor signs the bill into law, it will become effective immediately.
Dental care bill would require some kids to get exams
SPRINGFIELD – A bill to require Illinois public school students in kindergarten, second grade and sixth grade to get dental exams won approval in the House on Tuesday and now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.
State Rep. David Miller, D-Calumet City, who is a dentist, said HB 752 is designed to raise parents' awareness that dental care is an important part of children's health.
"Many children have rampant decay and have it at an early age," Miller said.
The measure would allow a school to hold a child's report card if a dental exam is not completed by the end of the academic year, but also sets up a waiver process for children who cannot afford dental care or do not have access to a dentist.
The cost of a dental exam can be up to $50, but there are some programs available through which exams can be obtained at little or no cost, Miller said.
State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, commended Miller's aim, but said he did not believe the legislation would accomplish its intended purpose.
Most children who can afford to are already going to the dentist regularly, while the children who need the exam most are going to be able to get a waiver, Black said.
"We're not holding anybody's feet to the fire and we're not giving children access to a dentist who may need it," he said.
Black said in his district and in many other parts of the state, dentists are not even accepting public aid patients anymore, so access to dental care is very difficult for low-income families.
"This is a great idea, a phenomenal idea, but I don't know how it's going to work in many areas of the state," he said.
Black, state Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and state Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, voted against the bill. State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted yes, helping the legislation pass on an 83-32 vote.
You can reach Kate Clements at (217) 782-2486 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.