Illinois Senate bill would ban gas-powered leaf blowers
A recent proposal to ban Illinois retailers from selling gas-powered leaf blowers and penalize Illinoisans for using them would hurt small businesses.
A new bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly would ban the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers in Illinois retail stores and slap residents caught using them with a $500 fine.
Senate Bill 3313, filed Feb. 14, would put a statewide prohibition on gas-powered leaf blowers that contain either a two- or four-stroke engine. It appears Illinois would be the first state in the nation with a blanket ban on the devices, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
The bill language cites leaf blowers’ effects on public health and the environment, including the risk of emissions to contribute to smog and acid rain, as well as the potential for hearing loss due to loud noise.
While environmental preservation and public health protections are important concerns, the bill does not consider unintended consequences on small businesses that use efficient, gas-powered gardening tools, such as landscaping companies.
For Kevin Kittoe of Oswego, Illinois, the ban could cost him his budding lawncare business.
“This is how [people] pay their bills and feed their families. This is it. This is all they have,” Kittoe said. He serves around 20 clients in his hometown, primarily middle-class residential properties and small businesses.
“They don’t consider the little man trying to get by. This is going to directly affect my son and my wife.”
In the lawncare and landscaping industries, gas-powered leaf blowers are as important as lawnmowers or weed wackers, according to Kittoe. He said switching to an electric blower would be impossible, due to the added cost and time necessary to charge. The typical cordless, electric leaf blower could handle one 30-minute job before needing a recharge or a new battery, which go for $150 to $200 each.
The last state to consider a statewide ban on leaf blowers was California, which is currently home to around 60 local leaf blower bans, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Seven municipalities in Illinois currently impose a seasonal leaf blower ban, according to HD Supply Facilities Maintenance: Evanston, Wilmette, Glencoe, Winnetka, Arlington, Highland Park and Lincolnwood. In most cases, this means residents and businesses are only allowed to use gas powered leaf blowers during fall.
The efficiency of gas-powered leaf blowers enables gardening and landscaping crews to be highly productive in a far shorter amount than with electric blowers, brooms, or rakes, allowing businesses to keep costs – and therefore prices – relatively low.
A 2017 report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services in Long Beach, California, found gardening companies estimated they would need to raise their rates by 40% to account for increased labor costs of using a broom and rake instead of a leaf blower. The report recommended that instead of an outright ban, the city should require residents to use newer models of gas-powered leaf blowers.
The proposed ban would come at a time when Illinois’ jobs growth is trailing the national median in nearly every sector. In 2019, seven of Illinois’ metro areas lagged behind the national average while three shed jobs on net.
For Illinois to overcome its deep challenges, it must foster a tax and regulatory environment that allows residents to prosper while attracting investment from outside state lines.
An extreme ban on the tools of the landscaping trade risks blowing good opportunities away.