Fix for parking meter cheating heads to Gov. Quinn’s desk
BY CHRIS FUSCO AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters May 22, 2012 4:30PM
Updated: May 22, 2012 8:42PM
Legislation crafted to end the widespread abuse of disabled-parking placards by able-bodied drivers in metered zones throughout Chicago is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.
The bill — filed by state Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) in response to the Chicago Sun-Times’ “Meter Cheaters” investigation last year — passed the Senate 58-0 on Tuesday after passing 108-0 out of the House in March.
The legislation, should Quinn sign it, would establish a two-tiered disabled-parking system throughout Illinois, where handicapped motorists have been allowed to park for free in metered zones for decades.
Starting in 2014, only wheelchair-bound people and others who are physically unable to feed meters or parking payboxes would be allowed to park for free in metered spots, according to the legislation. They’ll be sent a new set of placards that would display their right to free metered parking in Chicago and other Illinois communities after the Secretary of State’s office reviews paperwork signed by their doctors.
Regular disabled-parking placard and license plate holders would continue to be allowed to park in handicapped-only spots in parking lots and garages but would not have free-parking benefits in metered zones.
Besides the two-tiered placard system, drivers caught using disability license plates or placards that have not been issued to them would face increased fines of $600 apiece. Fines for repeat and three-time violators would increase to $750 and $1,000, respectively.
“We need to stop the fraud that is taking place with handicapped-parking placards,” said Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest), the bill’s lead Senate sponsor.
“This seems to me to be moving the ball on personal responsibility a little forward, and that’s something we should do more of,” Sen. Dale Righter (R-Charleston) said of the legislation.
Partnering with retired Chicago Police Lt. Robert Angone, the Sun-Times last year observed dozens of able-bodied people using relatives’ placards, deceased people’s placards, fake placards and even stolen placards to cheat Chicago’s meter system.
A subsequent Sun-Times report revealed that the private company that operates Chicago’s meter system is demanding $13.5 million for free parking it provided to drivers who displayed disabled-parking placards and plates in the one-year period that ended Feb. 28, 2011.
Another disabled-parking reimbursement tab for the year ending this past Feb. 28 is expected soon.