When Jim Oberweis is the voice of reason (sort of)

Apparently having far too much time on their hands, last January, the Madison County Health Department shut down 11 year-old Troy resident Chloe Stirling’s $200 a month cupcake business.

“The rules are the rules. It’s for the protection of the public health,” a health department staffer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The guidelines apply to everyone.”  Chloe

This is exactly why anyone dead set on becoming a cop or code enforcer should never be allowed to be one. Trepidation isn’t always a bad thing. The capacity to perceive those shades of gray borne of a reasonable self-doubt is always an admirable trait for people in positions of power.

Though that’s important to note, it’s not our main point so let’s move on…

Enter downstate State Rep Charlie Meier, who tried to do the right thing by introducing a bill exempting enterprising food service folks like Chloe who pull in less than a grand a month. And it passed the House with flying colors.

But when it got to the Senate, sensing an opportunity to apply his trademark bad judgment, Sen. Donnie Trotter amended the bill to require Chloe and her ilk to cough up $145 for an eight-hour food sanitation course, procure a $45 health department permit, insert a cupcake ingredients label, and pay another $35 state licensing fee

And you thought Madison County was bad. Though I have to say the prospect of a gaggle of 11 year-old girls descending on a food service class is fascinating. Throw in Gordon Ramsey and you’ve really got something there.

Trotter tried to explain he was simply protecting constituents with food allergies, but if anyone with a serious gluten intolerance is silly enough to buy food from a driveway, they probably deserve everything they’re about to get.

Enter 25th District State Senator Jim Oberweis who made this impassioned press conference plea; “This is absolutely insane! Somebody in Madison County went crazy and decided to enforce a law against an 11 year old kid who was baking cupcakes. That was a mistake, but it happened.”

Had he stopped there, it would’ve made for the proverbial happy ending. But no! Jim had to embellish the already obvious with this; “Then what happened? It came to the Senate… We ‘Illinois-ized’ the bill, doing things the way we do in Illinois, which is everything we can to discourage entrepreneurism and to discourage business interests.”

And I have two problems with that.

First, remember when Freud said “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?” Well, sometimes stupidity is just that. And there’s always plenty of it to go around. Not everything is a vast conspiracy intended to render Illinois a vast Democratic wasteland.

The simple truth is, those Madison County Health Department heads need to smoke a little more weed and Mr. Trotter has never been the brightest bulb in the state senatorial pack. So consider the sources, fix the damn problem, and move on.

Because the second issue is, by turning cupcakes into an end of Illinois entrepreneurial civilization as we know it argument, Sen. Oberweis and his GOP lackeys are guilty of the very charge we just levied against Madison County.

A complete and ridiculous overreaction!

Not only does crying wolf inure Illinois voters to the real issue, but by their incessant business climate bad mouthing, the GOP is doing even more damage to the state’s sad image than the clueless Democrats.

What self-respecting corporation would relocate here when our purported best emissaries keep saying it sucks? Apparently, as long as a sound byte serves their short-sighted purpose, Republicans have absolutely no concept of collateral damage.

So while we certainly need to thank Jim for leading the logical charge here, how about, instead of blurting out how bad it is at every turn, saying something like, “Illinois is a great place and we’re going to make it even better for business.” It’s called marketing 101.

On a happier note, after the amended bill went down to a ignominious defeat, the original Meier version passed and Chloe is back in the baking business. So with a couple of hitches in our collective giddyup, it all worked out exactly the way it should have.

So what’s the Illinois Republican moral here? Don’t turn cupcakes into conspiracies and shutup and fix the business climate problem.

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