CAPITOL NEWS DAILY: Pre-Prohibition law targeted by legislators

CAPITOL NEWS DAILY: Pre-Prohibition law targeted by legislators


Public safety, prescription drug prices, cash bail and the state’s lawmaker appointment process were all topics of conversation as lawmakers on Tuesday kicked off their final two-week stretch of legislative session prior to March primary elections. Click here to view this morning's Capitol News Daily email newsletter.

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The newsletter includes additional reporting notes and insights from our news team of Bureau Chief Jerry Nowicki and reporters Rebecca Anzel, Peter Hancock and Ben Orner. Here is some that reporting that was in this morning's newsletter:


Lawmakers look to lift little-known prohibition of drinking on trains

SPRINGFIELD  –  A state lawmaker advanced a bill Tuesday that would lift a 1911 state prohibition of alcohol consumption on trains because, she said, the existing law is not enforced or obeyed.

“As most people probably don’t realize, … this bill was passed in 1911, pre-Prohibition,” Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, said during a House transportation committee hearing, “and it prohibits the drinking of alcohol on any train, train station; it also requires our engineers to make arrests.”

She said the 1911 law is not only not enforced, but public transit is generally viewed as an alternative to drunk driving.

“Isn’t there a bar car on the train?” asked Rep. Natalie Manley, a Joliet Democrat who was one of two lawmakers to vote against Costa Howard’s House Bill 3878 in committee.

“On some trains, yes there are,” the bill’s sponsor replied.

“Anybody who has ever been on a Metra (Chicago rail system) train during rush hour during any time of the day on the way home, people are drinking on the train,” Costa Howard said. “They can buy something in the train station, they can maybe hide it in their backpack, … and they are drinking on the trains, and technically it is illegal.”

She said the 1911 law makes that activity a Class C misdemeanor, and while it is not enforced on trains, some local municipalities are charging homeless people with drinking at or near a train station instead of pursuing other more appropriate charges.

“There are other mechanisms to enforce not drinking and driving … and public intoxication other than this law,” she said.

While her bill would repeal the state-level prohibition of drinking on trains, it still allows rail systems to ban alcohol consumption entirely or on certain days, such as during rowdy street festivals, if they believe it necessary.

She also said engineers currently do not make arrests, but notify local law enforcement of unruly passengers to have them removed at the next stop. That process can still continue under her bill, she said.

“There’s nothing … to prevent local law enforcement from charging someone who is raising a ruckus on a train with something else, for example, disorderly conduct or, I don’t know, public drunkenness or whatever,” added Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena.

Costa Howard said there was no opposition to her bill, as many people were unaware of the prohibition in the first place.

The bill advanced to the full House on a 9-2 vote with Rep. Tom Weber, R-Lake Villa, joining Manley in opposing the measure. - Jerry Nowicki, Capitol News Illinois

This article has been updated. A previous version incorrectly stated how many weeks of scheduled legislative session remain before the March primaries. 

Jerry Nowicki

Jerry NowickiJerry Nowicki

Jerry has more than five years of experience in and around state government and nearly 10 years of experience in news. He grew up in south suburban Evergreen Park and received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a master’s degree online from Purdue University.

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