Thursday, April 14, 2011

Legislative roundup: A win and a loss for Rep. LaShawn Ford

By Lauren N. Johnson

Lawmakers took action on a number of bills as the deadline to pass legislation out of each chamber by Friday closes in.

Chicago Democratic Rep. LaShawn Ford said “compromise helped” to gain necessary votes for a bill he sponsored that today passed on the House floor. It would ban the use of trans fats in restaurants beginning in July 2013.

House Bill 1600 excludes schools from the ban, but it would bar public and private schools from selling foods containing trans fats items in vending machines.

Sen. Donnie Trotter, a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of the bill in the Senate, has not yet gauged the support in the chamber but says there is a “good chance” that the measure will gain support because of a greater fiscal awareness and health consciousness in the legislature this year. “I think everyone understands how much is costs our state to deal with people with obesity, beginning with childhood obesity to adulthood diabetes. People are much more conscious of what the public cost is,” Trotter said. He said he foresees some problems of people refusing “to be told what to eat.”

Ford said his goal is to remove trans fat from school cafeterias by 2016. Schools contracts with food vendors are a roadblock to making the change sooner. “Many people used to believe that if you eliminate trans fats, then you can’t have French fries, you can’t have fried foods, and that’s not true.”

Currently, many cities and counties – with New York City being the first – have bans on food items containing trans fat, but Illinois would be the second state – after California – with such a ban.

Another bill, HB 94, also sponsored by Ford, to require inmates throughout the state to be counted as residents in their home towns rather than in areas where the prisons in which they are incarcerated are located, failed in the House this afternoon.

Ford said although he was sure of previously sought-after votes from his colleagues, it failed because a few members weren’t present in the chamber when the bill was called for a vote. Ford said if the bill had passed, it would have been too late for it to affect the redistricting process currently taking place in the legislature.


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