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Forget budget -- some lawmakers more concerned with monkeys
By Timothy Magaw | Daily Herald Staff

Sorry, buddy. You may not be welcome in Illinois anymore.


Associated Press file

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Published: 3/15/2010 12:05 AM

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Capitol proposals

A look at some of the more unique measures being proposed in Springfield

Monkey business: Make it illegal to house them, in most cases.

Funny lighters: Ban lighters that look like something else.

Facebook permission: Require written permission from parents for kids to sign on.

Helmets all around: Require kids to wear helmets on bikes.

Headlights on: Require drivers to turn on headlights, no matter time of day or weather.

SPRINGFIELD - Lawmakers introduce thousands of proposals that have nothing to do with the budget and ethics debates that are gripping the state Capitol.

While many never see the light of day, that doesn't stop lawmakers from suggesting unique laws dealing with everything from the pets we can keep to when we turn on our car's headlights.

Over the last couple of months, the Daily Herald perused filings and these caught our eye. Here's a sampling of what some lawmakers think you should do - and stop doing.

Monkey business?

State Rep. Dan Burke wants to put an end to monkeying around in Illinois.

The Chicago Democrat's proposal would make it illegal to harbor a primate, such as a chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, monkey or lemur. Zoos, circuses and science labs would be exempt under the proposal.

Already have a monkey? No worries. The proposal would not affect primates bought before 2011 if they're registered with local animal control agencies.

Lawmakers also recently voted to exempt from the ban a "therapy monkey," defined as a capuchin monkey owned by someone with a severe disability who uses the animal to complete daily tasks. Marcel, the monkey from 1990s sitcom "Friends," was a capuchin monkey, though apparently not a therapy monkey.

Burke's proposal comes on the heels of a nationwide push for primate safety after a 200-pound chimpanzee critically wounded a woman in Connecticut.

Novelty up in smoke?

Some lawmakers don't want you to buy lighters shaped like anything from a derringer pistol to Daffy Duck. If it has "other entertaining features," you could also be out of luck.

State Rep. Don Moffitt, a Republican from the Galesburg area, wants help prevent youngsters from accidentally starting fires because they confuse these lighters with some sort of toy. Fire officials say blazes started by young people are occurring with more frequency.

Similar legislation was introduced last year, when it was approved in the Senate but defeated in the House. Critics said a novelty lighter ban wasn't necessary with proper parenting.

Parental Facebook OK?

Does your teenager have a Facebook page? Probably.

Did you provide a written document permitting them to do so? Probably not.

But House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego thinks you should. As part of a nationwide push to secure cyberspace, Cross proposed legislation that would require social networking Web sites, like Facebook or MySpace, to obtain written permission from parents before their child could sign up for the online services. The proposal targets anyone younger than 18.

Cross' legislation also would grant parents access to their son's or daughter's profile, allowing them to peep on what their children might be sharing with their slew of cyber friends. The legislation would also prohibit registered sex offenders from accessing social networking sites.

Get your helmet, kids

Parents could be forced to make sure their children wear a helmet while riding a bicycle under two proposals in the General Assembly.

Legislation in the Illinois House would require anyone under 18 years old to wear a helmet, while the Senate plan sets the threshold at 16 years old.

Illinois lawmakers aren't alone in their quest to ensure young people are safer while riding bicycles. Legislators in four other states are offering similar proposals, and 21 states already require bicycle riders under specific ages to wear helmets.

Chicago Democrat Ira Silverstein, who proposed the idea in the Senate, said he doesn't want to turn violators into criminals. So, the proposal calls for officers to issue a warning for a first offense and a citation for a second, but not to arrest anyone simply for this offense.

Turn headlights on

State law requires headlight use while driving in the rain or at night, but a few state lawmakers think they should be on even during the sunniest days in the Land of Lincoln.

State Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, introduced legislation earlier this year that would require a car's headlights be on no matter the time of day. He said it's a simple way to reduce accidents.

Brady said the proposal isn't a priority by any means, but it's something law enforcement officials from his district wanted him to explore because it could make the roads safer.

"I thought we'd take a look at it, and we left it at that at this point," Brady said.

State Rep. Jim Sacia, of Pecatonica Republican, introduced similar legislation last year.

Of course many newer models have daytime running lights. But those without would need to turn the lights on if this becomes law.

•Daily Herald staff writer Chase Castle contributed to this report.