MUSEUM CAMPUS — Springfield legislators are considering a bill that would cut the number of free admission days at some of Chicago's most popular museums in half.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) and John D. Anthony (R-Morris) would reduce the number of free museum days to 26, from the current 52 free days ordained by state law.
The measure aims to boost ticket revenue at the affected museums, which include the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. But it also drew ire from Chicagoans who spoke out against the bill during Wednesday's Park District Board of Commissioners meeting.
David Matthews discusses the proposed bill:
The legislation was approved by an Illinois General Assembly committee last month and could go up for a full House vote in coming weeks. Sosnowski could not be reached for comment, and Anthony did not immediately return a message.
When asked about the bill, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner said via e-mail that “The governor will carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk.”
Rebecca Page Schejbal, administrative director for Museums in the Park, which represents 11 institutions on Chicago Park District land, would not say whether the museums endorse the bill. She did say, however, that approximately 40 percent of Chicago museum visitors do get admitted for free, and the legislation would presumably recoup some of that lost revenue.
"It also would allow museums to prepare a better experience for the 26 free days that (would be) offered," she said.
Schejbal added that there are other avenues for Chicagoans to get free museum admission: approximately 1 million students get in free each year through Chicago Public Schools, and families can also check out museum passes through the Chicago Public Library system.
Schejbal also acknowledged that less people may visit the museums if the free days are cut.
"Of course it's a concern, the folks who count on free days do go to cafes and buy memberships and shop in our stores," she said. "So it's a balancing act."
A similar measure failed to pass in 2013. The new bill would amend state law, and as such would apply to any museum on public land throughout Illinois.
For those counting, here are the free museum days scheduled for the rest of the year:
March 2, 3, 4
June 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12
June 4, 5, and 8
June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16
September 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27
November 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24
Museum of Science and Industry:
June: 1-5, 8
September: 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30
Museum of Contemporary Art: free to Illinoisans every Tuesday
Art Institute of Chicago: free to Illinoisans from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Thursday
DuSable Museum of African American History: free admission every Sunday
National Museum of Mexican Art: always free admission
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