Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. May 23, 2024.

Editorial: Cameras will enable cost-effective enforcement of parking prohibition at O’Hare

Kudos to the Illinois legislature, whose bi-partisan legislation will make it safer for drivers on westbound I-190 by lessening the number of deadly projectiles that can launch themselves unexpectedly into their path.

Awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature is the O’Hare Driver Safety Act, which should, finally, discourage drivers making airport pickups from parking on the westbound shoulder of I-190 within a half-mile of the terminals. The secret is putting teeth into the laws that prohibit it: Getting caught will result in a ticket and $100 fine; and cameras will be set up to snap photos of scofflaws.

For years, we’ve all seen them — vehicles on the shoulder of I-190 or at the intersection of I-90 and I-294, as their drivers wait for incoming flights to land (some of them parked directly under signs warning it is illegal to stop or stand there). The danger is that those parked cars can shoot out into traffic without warning, startling drivers on the main road and causing crashes.

There are easily accessible alternatives for drivers making airport pickups that don’t endanger the rest of us — so-called cellphone lots where drivers can wait for a call — but not enough scofflaws have been incentivized to use them.

That will change with the introduction of cameras, set up by the Illinois Toll Authority. Much like red-light cameras that are on the job 24/7, these will patrol the shoulders without needing the backup of pricey human officers. As it is, state troopers conduct compliance checks and issue citations and warnings daily, but this, clearly, will be more effective.

As Republican state Rep. and Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said, expecting human officers to chase shoulder-parking scofflaws is not the best use of police manpower, and not effective enough to discourage the practice. “We’re waiting for a disaster to happen,” he said.

A solution was found that gives law enforcement the ability to use cameras to enforce parking violations. Without it, enforcement is literally hit and miss.

Stephens spearheaded the bill, but Democratic leaders Speaker Chris Welch of Chicago and Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park became chief sponsors.

The O’Hare Driver Safety Act, which passed both the Illinois House and Senate, will become effective immediately upon Pritzker’s signature. T he only exception to the parking prohibition is an emergency — and the definition of “emergency” does not include waiting to pick up a passenger.

O’Hare has a free cellphone lot at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive, a free Kiss n’ Fly location at the Multi-Modal Facility, pickup and drop-off at terminals, plus $3 an hour parking. Learn more at flychicago.com/ohare/tofrom/dropoff.


Chicago Tribune. May 27, 2024.

Editorial: Illinois pols stick it to automakers in warranty repair spat. Prepare to pay more for your next car.

Illinois politicians just can’t keep their mitts off other people’s money. And when the money grab also pleases union bosses and a group of local business owners known for regularly making campaign contributions, the temptation becomes irresistible. Evidently, no one cares if the result is that state residents stand to pay more when they buy a car in the future.

That’s the political calculation behind House Bill 3940, an amendment to the state’s Motor Vehicle Franchise Act that proved wildly popular in Springfield because, on the surface, it helps local constituents at the expense of giant automakers. But as any economist can attest, there’s no free lunch when a state raises the cost of doing business — and Illinois famously excels at that practice.

For years, car manufacturers and their dealerships have grappled over factory reimbursement rates for warranty repairs. Beginning in 2022, Illinois lawmakers put a thumb on the scale, siding with dealers by forcing automakers to pay much more than the previously negotiated rates. Volkswagen filed suit to block the law, calling it “crony capitalism” that takes money from automakers “and, for no public purpose, deposits that money directly into the pockets of politically favored Illinois dealers.” VW claimed that its property, due process, equal protection and even free-speech rights were being violated.

That was a lot of thunder without much rain, and U.S. District Judge John Tharp Jr. on May 6 shot down VW’s challenge, dismissing its claim while leaving the door open for the German automaker to amend and refile the suit. Tharp also clarified that VW can indeed recoup its costs by raising prices, and it’s free to publicly blame the law for the increases.

VW has said the law is adding $10 million a year to its costs in Illinois. When the Big Three and other affected automakers are considered, the industry pegs the additional costs at something like $250 million a year. That number might be exaggerated, but no one should doubt that the stakes are high and, as it stands, the VWs, Fords and GMs eventually will need to charge more to make up for the law.

The manufacturers aren’t likely to keep this a hidden fee. The federal judge has given automakers permission to slap a surcharge on cars sold in Illinois to recover their costs from this law and to inform consumers why they’re paying more.

The Illinois politicians who overwhelmingly backed the legislation (not a single lawmaker, including any Republican, voted no) upset a long-standing balancing act. New and certified pre-owned vehicles come with warranties from the manufacturers. Since legacy automakers are barred from selling cars directly to customers or operating service centers, their dealers perform repairs and updates covered by the warranties. The manufacturers reimburse the dealers for the work.

The amount of the reimbursement, until Illinois pols stuck their noses in it, was less than an everyday car owner would pay if a dealer was performing the same job on an out-of-warranty vehicle. The automakers got a discount partly because of their market power, no doubt, but also because warranty work tends to be done on newer vehicles, and sometimes in large volume due to recalls. The dealers’ service personnel typically get practiced at those tasks and can perform them more quickly than one-off work on older rust buckets.

Dealers understandably want to get paid more for warranty work. Service centers have become an increasingly important source of profit, accounting for a big chunk of the bottom line at most dealerships. Because of inflation and the scarcity of qualified mechanics, dealers are struggling to keep those profit margins plump.

Enter the General Assembly, which rallied around the dealerships, cheered on by union leaders representing automotive technicians. The “Multiplier Act,” as it’s known in Springfield, jacked up the reimbursements to at least the same level as the amount charged retail customers for out-of-warranty work.

In one swoop, Springfield stuck it to the mostly out-of-state and foreign automakers while enriching local dealers and providing more money to pay local technicians. The law passed with overwhelming support, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker quickly signed on.

A few states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, have similar laws on the books to promote “warranty parity,” as it’s called. Thanks to Illinois, and now the supportive federal court ruling, additional states are also getting into the act. It probably won’t be long before automakers are paying higher warranty-repair costs coast-to-coast.

There’s one additional wrinkle: The Illinois law does not apply to newer electric vehicle makers Tesla and Rivian, because they are authorized to sell directly to customers without a dealer network. The cost of operating an EV is already lower, not only because they require no gasoline, but, significantly in this matter, because they have far fewer parts subject to breakdown and repair.

The dealers and mechanics have won a victory that is likely to raise the relative costs of gas-powered vehicles, hastening a potential decline in the service centers that support them. And, predictably, Springfield helped pave the way.


Chicago Sun-Times. May 21, 2024.

Editorial: Statewide public defense office would help Illinois counties in need of support

Roughly 60% percent of the state’s 102 counties do not have a full-time public defender. That needs to change for Illinois to meet its legal obligation to provide criminal defendants with legal counsel.

The 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision, which guaranteed the right to counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford an attorney, sparked a much-needed examination of public defenders offices across the country last year.

The analyses were as stark as expected. Many public defenders are juggling extremely heavy workloads that keep them from providing effective legal representation. The 1973 guidelines for caseloads are outdated and broad, the National Public Defense Workload Study found, offering new standards.

We’d have to go further back in time — to 1949 — for the last time Illinois changed its public defense structure. An upgrade is overdue, especially when 60% of the state’s 102 counties do not have a full-time public defender. In many of those mostly rural counties, it is a judge who appoints a local private practice attorney, typically using flat-fee contracts to represent someone who doesn’t have the means to hire a lawyer.

Judges outside of Cook County also have the power to appoint and remove chief public defenders. That can be highly problematic as public defenders have been removed after they publicly complained about insufficient resources, says Stephanie Kollmann, the policy director for the Children and Family Justice Center at Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.

Under the proposed Funded Advocacy and Independent Representation, or FAIR, Act, Illinois could get the ball rolling on establishing a statewide public defense system to ensure it is fulfilling its Sixth Amendment obligations without judicial and political interference.

The hybrid state-plus county program will take two years to set up and yes, will eventually cost taxpayers some money.

But having a state public defender and an 11-member commission “is not simply a matter of dollars,” as Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell told us. “This is about creating a structure that allows for oversight, the right support and really assuring that people are getting their constitutional rights.”

A statewide public defense system could also help with collecting data, which “can only help public defense attain equal footing in the legal system” the American Bar Association said.

As they start discussion on the FAIR Act, Illinois lawmakers need to keep in mind that roughly four out of five criminal defendants, many of whom are Black and Brown, rely on public defenders or court-appointed lawyers.

“Lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries,” Justice Hugo Black wrote in the Gideon v. Wainwright ruling. It is time we start taking that mandate seriously.