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SPRINGFIELD —  If Illinois’ massive $30 billion statewide construction law is ruled too big or too vague, could any law in the state stand-up to the scrutiny?

By Benjamin Yount and Melissa Leu

SPRINGFIELD —  If Illinois’ massive $30 billion statewide construction law is ruled too big or too vague, could any law in the state stand-up to the scrutiny?

That seems to be the lingering question after the Illinois Supreme Court listened to arguments on Tuesday from Illinois’ largest liquor distributor, who says the massive construction plan violates Illinois’ single-subject legislation requirement. Legislation is supposed to be focused, dealing with only one topic.

Lawyers for W. Rockwell Wirtz and his company, Wirtz Beverage Illinois LLC, told the state’s high court that road, bridge,and school building plan includes taxes on beer, wine and liquor, as well as taxes on candy, grooming products and new fees for license plates.

Wirtz’s lawyer Sam Vinson argued that various measures were included in the law that don’t directly pertain to capital construction, including an amendment that required the University of Illinois to conduct a study on the effect of buying lottery tickets on Illinois families.

“Doing studies on the fairness of taxes, the appropriateness of taxes … when that amendment deals with the fairness of tax, much of which goes to operations, it’s not an amendment directly connected to the question of a capital project, Vinson said.”

But the state argued that single-subject deals with the entire picture, not the specifics of the legislation.
Assistant Attorney General Richard Huszagh said the entire law was based on generating revenue to fund capital projects.

“Under a single-subject clause analysis, our position is that … the permissible single subject of (Public Act) 96-34 and all these other bills is the capital program,” Huszagh said. “The fact that all of these bills do have provisions that relate to the same subject doesn’t render them invalid.”

Justice Rita Garman pressed Vinson, though, for answers beyond the construction plan.  What would happen, Garman asked, if all laws in Illinois had to be specific and narrow.

“You submit that if there is a single-subject violation with regards to any of these bills, they all go down?” Garman asked.

Vinson said “certainly” the construction plan would go down, as would the state law authorizing  spending the money for all that work.

Illinois is spending billions on road construction this summer, and transportation officials insist that the work will continue regardless of what happens with the case in front of the high court.

The Illinois Supreme Court is not saying when the justices will rule on the case.

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