Twice-baked: Senate rejects 'cupcake bill' loaded with rules, then OKs original version

News-DemocratMay 28, 2014 

Chloe Stirling, 12, of Troy, testifies recently before an Illinois Senate committee about a bill inspired by the shutdown of her cupcake-baking operation. With Chloe are her mother, Heather Stirling, and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Donne Trotter. Photo courtesy Illinois Senate Democrats.

PROVIDED/BND

— The Illinois Senate on Tuesday rejected a version of the "cupcake bill" that was loaded up with regulations and fees, then unanimously approved the original version.

The revised "cupcake bill" would have put education, license and fee requirements on home bakers wanting to sell their wares. It was turned down by a 32-17 vote, with six abstentions.

Later Tuesday, the Senate voted 57-0 to pass the original bill. The original bill, sponsored earlier this year by Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, prohibits state and county health departments from regulating home-based cooking operations, as long as their monthly sales don't exceed $1,000, and as long as buyers are informed that the items are homemade.

Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said Tuesday's second vote materialized "because common sense finally prevailed." After the version with the regulations failed, McCarter asked for a vote on the original version.

"I think there were some folks on the other side of the aisle who didn't want to go back to their districts and explain to their constituents why they voted for a big government overreach, to regulate kids in lemonade stands and bake sales," McCarter said.

Senators rejected the revised version -- the one with the added regulations -- after some senators complained that the bill had become too onerous.

McCarter urged his colleagues to reject that version. Under that version, he said, the legislation would have required home bakers to take a two-day course in food handling and pay about $200 for certificates and licenses and fees.

"If you want to be a part of big government in Illinois, vote for this bill," McCarter told fellow senators. "If you want to use common sense, say 'no.'"

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 House passed the original bill earlier this spring. But when it got to the Senate, its Senate sponsor, Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, added the various regulations and removed the exemption for small-scale bakers whose sales didn't exceed $1,000.

During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said if home hobby-type bakers are targeted now, church bakes sales would be next.

"For Pete's sake, we ought to just let her sell the cupcakes, unless someone dies of an overdose from them," Haine said.

The Troy girl, Chloe Stirling, was making about $80 a week selling cupcakes. After her baking skills were highlighted in a Belleville News-Democrat story, the county health department received a complaint from an adult who had wanted to set up a home-baking operation. The girl and her parents were told that in order to meet state codes for selling home-baked products, her cupcakes would have to be baked in a kitchen that is completely separate from the regular kitchen in her home. She also would need to have the kitchen inspected and obtain a permit.

For a while Tuesday, it appeared the Stirlings would be back in their original predicament -- needing to build an addition to their home. Though a metro-east company has offered to help build a kitchen for Chloe, the project still would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, said Chloe's mother, Heather Stirling.

"We are both over-the-moon excited," Heather Stirling said Tuesday evening.

Meier said in a tweet: "The entrepreneurial spirit was granted a victory today in the Illinois Senate with the passage of the 'cupcake bill.'"

Meier's version of the bill will now go to Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn hasn't spoken publicly on the legislation, but he did pose for pictures with Chloe when she visited the Capitol recently to testify before a Senate committee.

Meier said if the bill becomes law, "Chloe Stirling and all home-kitchen operators will be able to continue functioning without the fear of being shut down by the health department."

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said what happened to the legislation while it was under Trotter's sponsorship is an example of what's wrong with Illinois.

"This goes to the heart of what goes on in Springfield," he said during the debate. "It's an example of how we are Illinois-izing, killing, entrepreneurship."

Trotter rejected arguments that his version of the legislation would stifle entrepreneurial spirit, particularly among youths.

"Actually, we're encouraging it -- the right way," Trotter said. "There are laws that have to be adhered to when you sell to the public. There are things we must be cognizant of, and that is the allergens or the other things that will impact other individuals' health. That's the job of public health."

Trotter said his proposed regulations, which included various labeling requirements, would help protect consumers from food-borne illnesses.

Three of the metro-east's senators voted against Trotter's version of the bill: Haine, McCarter and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville.

The metro-east's other senator, Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-Belleville, voted "present" on the Trotter version.

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

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

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