SPECIAL REPORT: Illinois House fails to override uniform speed veto

| 10/10/2007

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007 – Supporters of uniform speed limits on Illinois highways once again are feeling the sting of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s influence. An effort to bring an end to split speed limits in Illinois was defeated this afternoon after the governor launched a late full-court press to quash the effort.

The Illinois House voted against overriding Blagojevich’s veto of a bill that sought to eliminate the provision in state law that set up slower speed limits on rural interstates for vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds. Currently, those vehicles are required to travel 10 mph below the 65 mph speed limit for other vehicles.

House lawmakers voted 57-53 in favor of the bill – SB540 – to increase large truck speeds to 65 mph. But the chamber was 14 votes shy of the three-fifths majority needed for a successful veto override today.

Senate lawmakers voted 39-10 earlier this month to override the governor’s veto.

This latest attempt marks the third time in recent years that House and Senate lawmakers sent a uniform speed limit bill to Blagojevich. As was the case with the previous efforts, the margin of support in both chambers during the regular session was more than the three-fifths majority needed for a veto override. On each occasion enough legislators switched their votes to uphold the governor’s veto.

In the days leading up to the House vote, the governor reiterated he doesn’t want trucks traveling at higher rates of speed. He also enlisted the help of groups such as AAA Chicago to voice opposition to the override attempt.

Earlier today, the governor picked a location under the Stevenson Expressway in Chicago to warn that highway deaths would spike as a result of allowing trucks to travel at the same speed as cars. According to media reports, the governor said “If the Illinois General Assembly raises the speed limits for trucks from 55 mph to 65 miles an hour, 115 people will die.”

During debate on the House floor advocates for uniform speeds cited federal statistics showing that split speed limits actually lead to more accidents.

“This is absolutely a bill about safety,” said Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport.

The failed override attempt stung the trucking industry. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was active with its membership in Illinois to support the effort to adopt uniform speeds. They blamed the failed override attempt on misinformation that was intended to scare people into opposing the same speed for all vehicles.

“Unfortunately we witnessed the politics of irrational fear,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor