SYCAMORE – Jullie Sewall said she remembers going to gas stations growing up where someone would pump gas for you, and said nowadays, she'd be wary of losing her freedom to pump her own fuel.
"I grew up in that era," Sewall said Wednesday as she pumped gas at the Hy-Vee gas station on Sycamore Road, filling her car for her daughter to go to work in Wisconsin in the evening. "And then they would come and clean off your windshield. You gave them an extra 50 cents. That was nice but, now you can kind of come through and pump your own gas."
A new bill introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives would prohibit people from pumping their own gas, and would instead mandate all stations have attendants employed by the gas stations to do the fueling for customers. State Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago, submitted Illinois House Bill 4571, which is also known as the Gas Station Attendant Act, and said the bill was proposed because of safety concerns pertaining to people using the gas pump themselves.
As snow fell at the gas station Wednesday, Phyllis Rowland of St. Charles said sometimes in the cold weather she'd appreciate having someone else pump her gas, but wouldn't support the legislation, because it would take away her choice to do it herself.
"I don't want to be prohibited from doing it, and I don't want it to cost more,' Rowland said. "I don't like that at all."
DeKalb County representatives are also opposed to the proposed legislation, including State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford.
"It clearly is not well thought out," Syverson said Wednesday. "The unintended consequences are that it would end up hurting the very people that she was talking about wanting to help. It would drive up the cost of gas for working families."
State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said he doesn't think safety would be a concern. He said he couldn't remember an accident at a gas station where it would have mattered if there was a gas attendant or not.
"On its face, I think it's an absolutely ridiculous proposal," Keicher said. "I hope with my heart of hearts that she had actually intended something else because this is so silly. My concern is that she didn't read the bill that was filed on her behalf or by her."
The bill is not final, Lilly said, and called it a "shell bill." She said, in its current state, it can be worked on by the legislators and she can get the input from the community.
“We never intended it to be passed in its current form,” Lilly said. “We never intended to make it illegal to pump your own gas.”
“It gives consumer an option to have self-service and a gas attendant,” she said, particularly for seniors, people with disabilities and women with children who may not be able to pump their own gas.
Keicher also mentioned the challenge of having enough staff for the number of pumps available today.
"Imagine going to a Hy-Vee or a Casey's where there are literally 16 pumps," Keicher said. "Are you telling me there'll be enough attendants to pump the gas? There's absolutely no way."
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said he thinks people are capable of pumping their own gas, and that he fears the proposed bill would place financial burdens on drivers and gas stations alike.
"I think it would increase the cost of gas," Demmer said. "[It would] probably put a lot of gas stations out of business. It seems like a policy we should not pursue."
Syverson noted that there would also be a lot of technical problems, such as speed of service, that would create huge issues as well, and that he doesn't think this is a way to help create jobs. He said the majority of people in Illinois live close to the borders. And on those borders are big gas price differences. He said people would fill up with the less expensive option – not Illinois.
"Or truckers will fill up in another state and then just drive through our state," Syverson said. "So in the end, that costs us a loss of jobs and a loss of revenue for the state. It'll cost us more jobs than it'll make jobs."
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