County Judge Dismisses Sugary Drink Beverage Lawsuit

Monday, July 31, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

A Cook County judge on July 28 dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) aimed at stopping a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages.

The tax will go into effect on Aug. 2, according to a press release from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The ruling, announced last Friday afternoon, comes about a month after the new tax, passed in November 2016, was to be implemented. Friday’s decision is the latest twist in a weeks-long legal battle.

The IRMA filed a temporary restraining order on June 27, arguing the tax violated the Illinois Constitution and was too vague. A Cook County Circuit Court granted the order on June 30. A subsequent appeal by the county was dismissed on July 10.

“We are disappointed with today’s ruling,” Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA, said in a press release. “We are exploring all legal options.”

“We believed all along that our ordinance was carefully drafted and met pertinent constitutional tests,” Preckwinkle said in the Cook County press release. “The delay in implementing the tax caused by the merchants’ lawsuit forced us to put into motion cost-saving measures to cope with this revenue loss, which currently is at least $17 million. Until we are able to fully implement and collect revenues from this tax, we will continue to review our financial position and make adjustments accordingly.”

Preckwinkle went on to say retailers should have been prepared for the tax, which passed in November 2016. The statement did not acknowledge the multiple clarifications the county has issued since its passage.

When asked by the Review in an email if the IRMA plans to appeal the ruling, Ryan McLaughlin, an IRMA spokesperson, wrote “Our statement speaks of itself.”

Commissioner Boykin responds to tax

Boykin_SeptemberIn a statement released on July 28, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), who voted against the tax and whose district includes Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood, said that, “given today’s dismissal of the lawsuit against the Sweetened Beverage Tax, there is now nothing to prevent President Preckwinkle from rescinding layoff notices and choosing to collaborate, rather than intimidate, when it comes to our budget process going forward.”

“The fact that it only took a single temporary court order to place County operations on the brink of disaster should be a clear sign to everyone that we need to change the way we do business in Cook County,” Boykin said, adding that he’s been urging Preckwinkle to “call a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners next month to
consider an emergency package of spending reductions and reforms.” VFP

— Michael Romain

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