Those Dirty Rats

Apparently it’s best to walk or ride a bike in Chicago. The CTA’s been a real pain in the butt, and now there’s another headache for car owners.

On August 7 Governor Blagojevich signed into law legislation that prohibits license plate covers, and it went into effect the same day.

I found out because a member of Yahoo Group “Ask In Chicago” warned everyone after she received a $50 ticket on August 10. She had no idea. No wonder.

I did some Google searches, and searched the Chicago media sites, and the earliest mention was in Chicago Suburban News on August 8. The Tribune actually ran a story on the revenue the city makes from tickets on August 12 and failed to mention the new law. In their defense it was about city tickets, and this is a state law, but nowhere else in the paper was this mentioned and the license plate law would seem to be a natural fit.

Next I went to the Secretary of State’s website, Cyberdrive. I searched for “license plate covers”. Nada. I went to their Press section. The last release was issued June 19, 2007. Then I went to the Governor’s website. Straight from the horse’s mouth, I thought. Below the fold there’s a link dated August 7, titled “Governor Blagojevich signs new laws to improve public safety and protect law enforcement agencies.”

Buried in the middle of the press release:
Senate Bill 1265, sponsored by State Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), prohibits vehicles from having tinted or clear license plate covers helping law enforcement officers and members of the community to better read license plate numbers.
Sponsored by a Chicagoan, eh? Except that bill doesn’t show up on the bills he’s sponsored. OK. I looked up the Bill itself on the Illinois General Assembly’s website. Basically they’ve crossed out the sections of the code that allowed license plate covers.

Then I noticed that at the very bottom it says “Effective Date: 6/1/2008”.

What the…?

The only thing I can suggest is if you DO get a ticket, print out the bill and highlight the “Effective Date.”

I don’t have a license plate cover, so this new law doesn’t directly affect me. However, being ruled by a government that can pass a law and begin punishing people immediately does affect me. There is something inherently wrong with this ability to act like a dictatorial state disguised in the garb of democracy.

Maybe that seems harsh. It’s just a license plate cover, and what percentage of the populace does it affect?

Long ago in my college journalism courses we discussed the “slippery slope,” the dreaded desensitization so that the formerly unthinkable slides into something only slightly offensive. We actually debated about the ethics of printing a picture of a broken body on a fire escape. Now the image of death is so commonplace that debate seems old-fashioned and prudish.

I’m half-tempted to purchase a license plate cover as my own form of civil disobedience. Nah – I know that’s a fight I can’t win. I’ll just take my opinion to the polls. This is still a democracy, after all.






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