Democrats opposed to enhancing penalties for criminal violations weren’t successful in trying to stop representatives in the House from approving a measure to increase penalties for illegally passing a school bus. State Rep. Darren Bailey’s House Bill 1873 would increase the fine for passing a school bus with its stop sign arm extended from $150 to $300 for the first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for the second offense.
“This is a public safety bill suggested by a constituent to help save lives and protect our children and grandchildren from people who ignore the stop signs and safety gates opened on school buses,” said Bailey, R-Louisville. “These fines have not been increased for many years and just as all fines in law, these fines are intended to help stop people from putting children in danger.”
Bailey referenced the deaths of three children in Indiana in October. In that case, the 24-year-old driver allegedly disregarded a stop sign arm extended at a school bus stop. She has also been charged with multiple counts of reckless homicide.
State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago, said people will lose their jobs because they won’t be able to afford the fines and there should be more education about the issue. She said she supports keeping kids safe.
“But this is not the way to do it to continue to increase fines without any education,” Conyears-Ervin said. “I am so offended.”
Conyears-Ervin also opposed a measure that passed the House on Wednesday that would increase the fine for people found violating the law barring using electronic devices while driving for the same reason.
State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said there’s no more education needed about the law. “This is something that is taught, it’s required to be taught in driver’s education,” Davidsmeyer said. “My nephew just went through driver’s ed and they know how serious it is to try to pass a stopped school bus.”
State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said the idea of trying to keep kids safe is noble, but he said enhanced penalties don’t work.
“Throughout the course of the last decades [we’ve seen] that raising penalties on behaviors doesn’t deter those behaviors, it just punishes the people that do them more,” Guzzardi said. State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said he was baffled by the opposition. “If they do this and they’re not educated after the first offense, they’re never going to be educated,” Batinick said. Batinick said other states impose higher fines and jail time for the first offense. Illinois doesn’t require jail time for the offense, only a fine.
“We are at the low end of fines for this, which is probably why it keeps happening because nobody cares, they just pay the fine,” Batinick said. “If that side of the aisle [is] concerned about $150 over school children, vote that way.”
The measure passed 74 to 16 and now heads to the Senate.