McCarter: Senate Dems adding ingredients to 'cupcake bill'

News-DemocratMay 23, 2014 

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, speaks during a news conference Friday in Springfield about the "cupcake bill" — legislation covering the sales of food baked in home kitchens. The legislation was prompted by the Madison County Health Department's shutdown of a Troy girl's cupcake-baking operation.

PROVIDED PHOTO/BND

— Sen. Kyle McCarter said Friday the Senate is turning down his attempt to restore some common sense to the "cupcake bill" that is making its way through the Illinois legislature.

The legislation was prompted by the Madison County Health Department's shut-down of a 12-year-old Troy girl's home-based cupcake-baking operation.

The original bill, sponsored earlier this year by Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, would have prohibited state and county health departments from regulating home-based cooking operations, as long as their monthly sales didn't exceed $1,000, and as long as buyers were informed that the items were homemade.

The House passed the bill, but when it got to the Senate, several regulations and fees were added. The way the bill currently stands, McCarter said, a child wanting to hold a lemonade stand would need to take an eight-hour course in food safety, obtain licenses and pay almost $200 in government fees. As an option, the child's parent can take the course, pay the fees and obtain the licenses.

McCarter, R-Lebanon, said he has tried to file an amendment to the bill, which would exempt any home-based operation which has monthly sales below $250. But the Democrat-controlled Senate won't allow the amendment, McCarter said.

"We have complicated this so much, that it's a real injustice," he said.

McCarter spoke about his proposed amendment during a news conference Friday at the Capitol, where he was joined by fellow GOP Senator Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, who owns a dairy and ice cream company.

"Folks, this is insane," Oberweis said.

Oberweis said he held lemonade stands when he was young. He said such activities are "something positive" for children, and teach them good lessons. "Would we rather see them join a gang?" he asked.

The Troy girl, Chloe Stirling, has testified twice at the Capitol before legislative committees. The health department shut down her rogue operation after receiving a complaint from an adult who wanted to start a home-based cooking operation. A few days earlier, the Belleville News-Democrat had published a feature story about the girl's baking skills.

McCarter said Chloe's sales do not exceed $200 per month.

"This is just a prime example of government overreach -- seeking problems where none exist," McCarter said. "It would be a travesty if this legislation is allowed to pass without some common-sense changes. How reasonable is it to insist that you be forced, by law, to obtain a local health department permit for $25 and Food Service Sanitation Management training that comes with a required eight-hour course costing $145, and the certificate which is another $35, just to sell a few cupcakes or cups of lemonade?"

Meier said Friday he prefers the original bill, but can live with the Senate changes as they currently stand.

The added regulations and fees "may not be perfect, but it will allow home kitchen operators to continue baking and selling their products," Meier said. "If this compromise is enacted, Chloe and others will be able to fully operate while ensuring the health and safety of their customers."

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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