SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- The Energy and Environment Committee approved a bill today that could stop people from endangering animals with plastic from balloons.

House bill 418 could make it illegal to knowingly release a large amount of balloons outside. That would include organized releases for celebrations, funerals or other gatherings. If caught, you could be charged a $500 fine.

Some committee members had concerns about how strict the rules would be. One lawmaker asked if people could be held responsible for accidentally letting go of balloons outside.

“If you’re walking, lets say in your scenario, and you have 20 balloons and the wind catches it and they take them out of your hand, that’s not a knowing release, that’s an accidental release,” said Representative Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake).

Rep. Yingling also said he doesn’t intend to hold children responsible for accidentally letting go of a balloon. He said he plans to add an amendment to clarify the difference between a knowing release and an accidental one.

Across the aisle

Meanwhile, some lawmakers were concerned with the amount of the fine, suggesting it’s a high price to pay. Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) said charging the fine without Illinoisans being aware of the new law could be financially damaging.

“I think we do need to take a look at the penalties on this and how it’s defined and everything,” said Butler. “Certainly a $500 fine is, I would say that’s a penalty enhancement, and I know how we feel about penalty enhancements.”

Even so, Yingling pointed out the negative effects balloon releases have on our environment. He said the main goal of the bill is to help eliminate environmental waste.

“Obviously there’s significant ecological impact and there’s also significant infrastructure impact when these balloons land,” said Yingling. “Not only are they dangerous for our habitat, they also complicate our storm sewer systems and our water systems.”

Yingling stressed the proposal would not apply to balloons used by higher education or government groups. The state would still allow meteorological balloons as well.

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March 8, 2021 at 07:53PM