CHICAGO — Chicago drivers can breathe a sigh of relief today.
That's because a bill introduced in the Illinois State Senate in January to allow municipalities to drastically expand the use of the Denver boot to collect unpaid city debts has been tabled — for now.
During Thursday's session in Springfield, the bill, which had advanced to the judiciary committee, was withdrawn by its sponsor, Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, which denied being involved with the bill's creation, confirmed Silverstein had pulled the bill.
"The Mayor's Office and the Senator talked and both agree it should be tabled," said city spokeswoman Kathleen Strand.
While Silverstein did not respond to repeated requests for comment, staff members in both his Chicago and Springfield offices said they had received many calls voicing opposition after news of the bill was reported in the media.
The dreaded yellow Denver boot is currently used by Chicago to immobilize tens of thousands of vehicles each year to force car and truck owners to fork over millions of dollars for unpaid parking and red-light camera tickets.
Chicago already has one of the most aggressive vehicle immobilization policies in the country. Drivers become boot-eligible when they accumulate two or more unpaid parking or red-light camera tickets over a year old or immediately when they rack up three unpaid tickets, and have run out of time to contest the fees or pay the tickets before the fines double.
But Silverstein's bill would allow Chicago, as well as the handful of municipalities that currently use this type of vehicle immobilization, to expand its use to include any municipal debt including unpaid water bills, tax bills, administrative hearing fines and other fees.
If passed, the law would have given Chicago another powerful tool to collect millions of dollars in city debt and would have drastically expanded the use of boot enforcement. According to the initial language in the bill, the boot option could be used against vehicle owners with city debt, even if they didn't have outstanding parking tickets, if the city was able to secure a court judgment for those unpaid fees, fines and taxes.
South Side Alderman Toni Foulkes (15th) was happy when told the the bill had been withdrawn.
"That's some crap," said Foulkes about Silverstein's bill. "When I heard it on the news I immediately called my state rep. It would be devastating for people on the South Side."
Foulkes didn't think such a policy would make it through the Chicago City Council.
"It's just unfair. If people had the money they would pay their bills. But then you go and take their cars to get to work to earn what little money they have? How the hell are they going to pay then?"
Once immobilized, just like current booting policy, the car would be towed and impounded if the debt is not paid within 24 hours, adding further costs.
If the driver of an impounded vehicle didn't pay up within 21 days, the car could be sold at auction. It is not clear whether the sale of the vehicle would be used to offset the driver's outstanding debt. Currently, proceeds from booted vehicles which are impounded and sold at auction are not used to pay down a driver's parking ticket debt.
This bill is the second in just a few weeks Silverstein has had to pull due to public backlash. He had proposed a controversial bill forcing website administrators to delete anonymous comments unless authors agreed to confirm their true identities.