SPRINGFIELD –State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) filed new legislation today, House Bill 4080, to prohibit governments from suing taxpayers and job creators for damages simply for exercising their constitutional right to challenge the legality of a tax. The bill filing comes in response to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s retaliation against the men and women of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) seeking $17 million in damages for the one-month delay in implementing the controversial Cook County “soda tax” after a judge issued an injunction in response to IRMA’s legal challenge to the tax, originally scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
Although Preckwinkle has withdrawn her motion to seek damages against IRMA, Wheeler believes this legislation is necessary to prevent even the threat of such action in the future. “Some reports indicate that Preckwinkle only withdrew her motion because another court ruled in her favor. That sends the signal that this chilling tactic could be used to punish or suppress those who might question tax policy in the future.”
“Imagine a local small business grocer, family restaurant, hamburger stand, or theater owner being driven out of business by their own local government leaders who are suing the small business owner because he or she had the audacity to ask the courts if a new tax, that the local government was forcing the business to collect from its customers, was actually constitutional,” Rep. Wheeler said. “No one should be able to be sued by their own government for asking the courts if a tax they are forced to collect is constitutional.”
Specifically, Representative Wheeler’s House Bill 4080 prohibits a local government entity from seeking damages in connection with a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction based upon a constitutional challenge to a tax. “I have filed this legislation in order to protect Illinois small businesses and taxpayers from a vengeful government seeking to punish them for exercising their constitutional rights,” Representative Wheeler added. “This is an issue that crosses partisan political lines. I am very optimistic that Democrat and Republican colleagues alike will join me in advancing this bill toward becoming law.”
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