The smoking age in Illinois is a House vote away from being the same as the drinking age.
State senators on Wednesday voted 36-19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. The vote came during the annual fall veto session of the legislature, which runs through Thursday, then continues after Thanksgiving.
The bill, if approved by the House, would require people to be 21 to buy tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products.
State Sens. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and Bill Haine, D-Alton voted “Yes” on the override. State Sens. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, and Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon voted “No” on the override.
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“I just feel like if we trust individuals to go serve our country, they ought to be able to make decisions on whether to use tobacco products themselves,” said Schimpf, who served in the Marine Corps.
During floor debate, Haine said the measure is a public health concern.
“It addresses a public health issue of smoking particularly of teenagers being introduced to a highly addictive substance,” Haine said.
Haine conceded the legislation doesn’t call for prosecution of people under 21 who are caught with tobacco products, but he added nicotine doesn’t impair judgment as alcohol can.
He added however, the state saying tobacco shouldn’t be sold to people under 21 is a reasonable approach.
The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.
When the House voted on the bill in May, it passed 61-49. The House would need 71 votes to override Rauner’s veto.
State Rep. LaToya Greenwood voted “Yes” on the ban. She said she isn’t sure how she’ll vote on the override, if and when it comes up in the House.
“I think it’s important we address the issue and concern about smoking and what it’s doing to our young kids, our young adults,” Greenwood said. “It is really a health crisis, when we start to think about different diseases, respiratory diseases, not just cancer, different diseases in general that’s affecting our young people.”
In other action on Wednesday, the Illinois State Senate, in a 40-12 margin, voted to override Rauner’s veto of legislation that calls for police departments to finish paperwork faster when it comes to undocumented immigrants who are victims of certain crimes so they can apply for a visa.
The federal government allows special immigration status for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of crimes such as kidnapping, blackmail, female genital mutilation, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and rape, Senate President John Cullerton wrote in the Daily Herald.
In order to qualify, police departments have to complete paperwork that has to be submitted to federal immigration officials.
The legislation that was vetoed by Rauner proposes a 90-day deadline for law enforcement to complete the necessary paperwork and in turn encourage victims to come forward.
“They know they would be protected if they help bring forward people,” Cullerton said during debate on Wednesday. “The goal is to encourage victims to come out of the shadows and work with police.”
Rauner vetoed the bill over the summer when he was running for re-election, a race he lost to Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
“That ties the hands of law enforcement. It can delay deportations, which should otherwise occur and again that’s a bad bill and we’re going to be against that,” Rauner said in August, according to the Sun-Times. “We don’t want to be tying the hands of our local law enforcement.”
Clayborne and Haine voted “Yes” on the override. McCarter and Schimpf voted “No.”
The piece of legislation now goes to the House for its consideration.
Legislative activity was briefly halted on Wednesday after a bomb threat was called into the capitol building. The third and fourth floor of the building were evacuated, including both legislative chambers, as security personnel searched the building. The all-clear in the building was given when nothing was found.