Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bradley, Bost Introduces Bills Affecting Tourism

UPDATED with additional bills

Two Southern Illinois lawmakers have introduced four bills that could impact tourists and the area's tourism industry should they get lawmaker approval and the governor's signature.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, has introduced the first three, and state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, the fourth one.

House Bill 1154 would exempt the Red Cross from paying bed tax at local hotels when the rooms are used for official purposes during disaster relief. The Red Cross isn't named directly, but is referenced as a distaster relief agencies incorporated by the United States Congress.

House Bill 1389 is a short appropriations bill authorizing $300,000 for the Illinois Department of Transportation to prepare a study for a new interchange on Interstate 57 just north of Benton at Petroff Road. This bill most likely won't pass as written, but the language could be added to one of the main appropriation bills later in the session. These aren't fully developed until the end of the legislative session.

The third bill isn't tourism-related directly, but would benefit tourists and local residents alike. House Bill 1392 would prohibit local units of government from issuing ticket quotes for law enforcement officers. Communities such as Cairo and Ullin, and even Williamson County, are becoming notorious for speed traps along I-57. I'm not saying that those agencies are using quotas, but Cairo especially could use more law enforcement inside their city limits rather than harass interstate travellers crossing the bridge from Missouri.

Bost's bill, House Bill 303 would amend the State Finance Act to create the Grow Illinois Jobs Fund that would allocate 2 cents per gallon of any existing tax on wine (other than cider) to be deposited into the new fund to promote the grape and wine industry in the state. The money would be split between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity home of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism which has supported wine promotion in the past.

Bost's 115th District includes the largest concentration of wineries in the state, including the dozen wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and at least another half dozen in Union and Jackson counties. State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Nashville, has introduced Senate Bill 1285, a Senate version of the same legislation.

Over on the senate side, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, has co-sponsored Senate Bill 1337 introduced by John M. Sullivan to create a hunting season for river otters.

State Sen. John O. Jones, R-Mount Vernon, has introduced Senate Bill 77 that would amend the criminal code to exempt military re-enactors from restrictions prohibiting the sale, manufacture, purchase, possession or carrying of specified vintage weapons under certain conditions.

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