Illinois lawmakers pass legislation to require truth-in-labeling for catfish

Illinois lawmakers pass legislation to require truth-in-labeling for catfish

With legislative session winding down and several items critical to taxpayers yet to be tackled, lawmakers passed a bill regulating the sale of catfish in restaurants.

As Illinois taxpayers wait to see if lawmakers can craft a budget before session ends May 31, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill prohibiting restaurants from labeling a menu item as catfish unless it actually contains catfish.

Senate Bill 312 originally passed the Illinois Senate May 18 by a 55-1 vote, with state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, being the only “no” vote. The bill passed the House 82-23 May 30. State Sens. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, and Napoleon Harris III, D-Harvey, introduced the legislation with House sponsors state Reps. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, D-Chicago; LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis; and Camille Lilly, D-Oak Park.

The legislation amends the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to allow for individuals to file complaints against restaurants mislabeling catfish. Under this legislation, if the Department of Public Health or a local health department receives two separate complaints for a restaurant mislabeling catfish, the department will inspect the restaurant for the validity of the catfish. If the restaurant fails the catfish inspection, the department will impose a $250 fine, with the fine amount increasing for subsequent violations.

SB 312 was brought to a vote before the House began debate on a budget, though Senate Democrats passed part of a proposal May 23, which would increase taxes $5.4 billion without any economic reforms.

Senate Bill 9, which contains the $5.4 billon tax increase, would raise the personal income tax rate to 4.95 percent from the current 3.75 percent rate and the corporate income tax rate to 7 percent from 5.25 percent. It also expands the state sales tax to laundry and dry-cleaning services, as well as storage and other services, and raises $54 million in cable and satellite TV taxes. Because the income tax hike is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, personal income taxpayers would pay an effective tax rate of 5.81 percent on their earnings for the remainder of the year.

These tax hikes are in addition to Illinois’ highest-in-the-nation property taxes – which lawmakers haven’t moved to cap or permanently freeze – and offer nothing in the way of reform to the state’s uncompetitive jobs climate.

Lawmakers haven’t passed a balanced budget in 16 years. Meanwhile, Illinoisans are suffering under the highest tax burden in the nation and are clamoring for serious economic reforms, but lawmakers show more concern for fish dinners over taxpayers.

Instead of debating the authenticity of seafood menu items, Illinois lawmakers should get to work on a real balanced budget that offers the foundational reforms the state needs, doesn’t raise taxes and offers real hope for struggling Illinoisans.

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