Columns | Daily Chronicle

Eye On Illinois: Vehicle Code amendments only idling for the time being

It’s impossible to keep tabs on every piece of proposed legislation during a regular legislative session, and far more bills fail than succeed.

Many such failed attempts, whether an actual losing vote or simply stalling in committee, returning in subsequent years. Any number of conditions might change that could make a nonstarter in 2023 become viable in 2033, and having legislative language already drafted can give a slight advantage down the road.

Speaking of roads, consider House Bill 2910, which advanced out of committee (Transportation: Regulations, Roads & Bridges) on a 16-0 vote before failing 6-97-1 on March 23 in the full chamber. State Rep. Jawaharial Williams, D-Chicago, filed the bill in February hoping to amend the Illinois Vehicle Code to make it illegal to hold an animal while driving. The penalty would be a $50 fine.

Two Democratic suburban lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors: state Reps. Joyce Mason, Gurnee, and Suzanne Ness, Crystal Lake, and although the measure failed, the logic is sound: there are several distracted driving laws on the books and none explicitly mentions pets. The debate on cellphone use behind the wheel is settled, statutorily, but no one has explained why skipping to the next song on your playlist is inherently more dangerous than the Pomeranian between you and the steering wheel (to say nothing of smoking, eating, applying makeup or trying to keep the baby in the backseat from screaming).

A February 2023 Secretary of State pamphlet on distracted driving does mention “any activity” that steals attention from safe vehicle operation, and lists plenty of options beyond mobile device use, including changing the GPS and daydreaming. But for now, your dog is legal in your lap unless a crash occurs and prosecutors include the pooch in their theory of liability.

Then there’s House Bill 1110, another Vehicle Code amendment. Also introduced by a Chicago Democrat, state Rep. Kim Buckner, this one has more sponsors, including House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna. The law would define “digitized driver’s license” and allow the presentation of such to law enforcement. It also caps the fee for any app required to display such a license at $6. The plan has been in the rules committee since March 27.

I access vehicle insurance cards through the carrier’s app and make sure my wife and oldest son have current copies on their phones. I probably wouldn’t pay $6 for a state app because I carry a wallet, but the teen drivers in my house would prefer fewer things in their pockets to potentially lose. There are extended questions, such as whether the digital license would work for proof of age or residency, but this is an idea whose time seemingly will come.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at