SPRINGFIELD — During a a March 9 hearing, the Illinois House Energy and Environment Committee advanced a bill that would ban ceremonial balloon releases.

House Bill 418, introduced by Rep. Sam Singling (D-Grayslake) would impose a $500 penalty for first-time offenses when knowingly releasing balloons into the atmosphere, as in the case of celebrations and special events.

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

While the bill passed unanimously, some representatives expressed concern that the initial fine was too steep a penalty.

Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) said individuals holding personal celebrations should not be subject to the penalty, while larger events such as weddings and special events should be subject to the higher penalties.

“I do understand the issue, but for just a general person out here who doesn’t know the law to slap them with a $500 penalty because they want to release balloons because their mother died of cancer, I just think is a bit extreme,” Mayfield said.

Yingling said the intent is to “prevent organized release of large quantities of these balloons.”

Yingling said he was working with representatives from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on amendments to include clarifying language, and said the fine could be decreased or eliminated for first-time offenses, or language shifted to focus more on organizational release of balloons.

Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) described the initial $500 fine as a “penalty enhancement.”

“I do appreciate the sentiment of this legislation, I do think it’s important and whatever we can do to educate groups and organizations to stay away from balloon launches I think would be good,” Butler said.


March 22, 2021 at 06:59AM