Attempt to override veto fails, split speed upheld in Illinois

| Monday, November 10, 2003

Illinois will continue to have a split speed limit after the state’s House of Representatives fell short in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of HB1186.

The vote was 69 to override, 39 supporting the veto and 6 abstaining or not voting. The bill needed 71 votes – two more than it received – for a successful override.

A spokeswoman for the House said that since the override attempt failed in the House, the bill will not be reconsidered in the Senate.

HB1186 would have cut provisions in Illinois law that set up a slower speed for vehicles with a gross weight of more than 8,000 pounds traveling on rural interstates. The limits now on those highways are 65 mph for cars and 55 mph for trucks. The bill passed both houses of the state’s General Assembly by wide margins earlier in the year. However, Gov. Rod Blagojevich – citing “serious safety concerns,” a spokeswoman said – vetoed the bill July 28.

OOIDA and other trucking industry officials have fought for the bill’s passage. They cite federal statistics showing that split speed limits lead to more accidents. However, a number of other groups, including the AAA Chicago Motor Club, fought the bill, often pointing to the same data.

The long-expected battle for the override started when Illinois state Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Sparta, the primary sponsor of the bill, filed a motion Nov. 4 to overturn the governor’s veto.

“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to override this measure, but I’m not all that surprised in the people who changed their minds,” Reitz said. “The governor’s veto articulated that there was a AAA study that said there were more severe accidents when trucks were traveling at a higher speed. We had used a AAA study earlier to say that it was safer to have uniform speed limits.

 “We had a lot of urban legislators who aren’t directly affected by it who changed their minds because of the governor’s veto,” he said. “Everyone downstate, everyone with rural interstates supported the measure.”

HB1186 received 89 yes votes when it passed the House, 18 more than needed to override, and 20 more than it received when the override failed. In the Senate, it received 45 votes when it passed, nine more than were needed to reverse the governor’s action.

In the Nov. 6 vote, 18 House members switched from voting yes on the bill to no, and seven other legislators who had previously voted yes did not vote on the override attempt. A far smaller number of legislators changed from voting no the first time to yes on the override attempt.

Reitz said the bill’s supporters had the 71 votes necessary for an override lined up. However, during a procedural maneuver in which the votes were verified, two of the legislators voting yes were not on the floor of the House, leaving the count at 69 – two short of what was needed.

Reitz said he planned to introduce the bill again next year.

“I’m sure we will,” he said. “This is the closest we’ve had – but we weren’t able to follow through and get it enacted into law.

“We need to get all of our information together,” Reitz added. “Forty other states have uniform speed limits, which is a very good reason [to change], and the trend is more and more states are moving to uniform speed limits. I think the more education we can get to the General Assembly, the better.”

Reitz gave an example. During the debate on the bill, one of the bill’s opponents said that the state was sixth in the nation in the number of truck accidents.

Later, after the debate, Reitz talked to the legislator.

“I basically said if there’s 40 other states that have uniform speed limits and we’re sixth in the number of truck accidents, then that should be an argument for uniform speed limits,” he said.

“I think it’s just really an education process. We just need to continue that,” he said. “We’ll just revisit this again next year, and hopefully we’ll be able to pass it.”

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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