The City Council met March 16, and a number of important laws were passed and introduced. Highlights include:
The City Council approved measures to raise Chicago's smoking age from 18 to 21, taxes tobacco products other than cigarettes, including cigars and chewing tobacco, and prohibits the use of coupons and discounts to purchase tobacco products. These measures will help continue to reduce the number of youth smokers and the additional revenue generated will go towards funding a universal freshman orientation program for Chicago Public School 9th graders. Additional information on these efforts can be found here.
The City Council also passed a law to ban smokeless tobacco at baseball stadiums and other professional and amateur sporting events, aimed to stop use of smokeless tobacco among teenagers and student athletes. Earlier that week, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin testified before the Finance Committee and urged aldermen to "finally knock tobacco out of the ballpark." Statistics show 14 percent of high school boys use smokeless tobacco, despite evidence it causes oral and pancreatic cancer. Chicago joins Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston as cities with Major League Baseball teams that ban chewing tobacco at sporting events. Use of smokeless tobacco is banned not just on the playing field but also in dugouts, locker rooms, the stands and bathrooms at sporting events.
The City Council also passed a measure to classify feminine care products as medical necessities, thereby exempting them from the City's sales tax. This change eliminates an unfair tax that discriminates against women and will make these products more accessible. The change will take effect at the beginning of the year, allowing the State of Illinois an opportunity to amend its tax law on feminine care products as well.
City Council passed an ordinance permitting a .50 cent surcharge when using a credit card in a taxicab. The law does not make the surcharge mandatory but allows taxis to impose it if they choose to do so. The credit-card surcharge will not apply to firms like Uber and Lyft, which file credit cards in their apps, nor in the city's new taxi apps Arro and Curb, which likewise already keep cards on file.
Alderman Laurino co-sponsored a resolution calling for hearings by the Committee on Finance to explore solutions to the student loan debt crisis in Chicago. The Committee will hear testimony from the private sector and Illinois school officials to better understand this problem and develop solution to rising student loan debt, which has tripled since 2005. Read the full press release here.