Illinois Democrats are forcing private businesses to display ‘free election year advertising’, critics say

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Democrats in Illinois have passed a law requiring private businesses to display messages that amount to “free election-year advertising” for the party, Republican critics say.

Democrats passed a law early Saturday morning requiring private gas stations to display stickers on gas pumps informing customers that the government has postponed a gas tax until after the election. Illinois was to impose a 2.2 cent per gallon gasoline tax on July 1, but the government pushed the tax back six months until January 2023.

The decals will read: “Effective July 1, 2022, the State of Illinois has suspended fuel tax inflation adjustment until December 31, 2022. The price of this pump should reflect the suspension of tax increase.”

The legislation also requires grocery stores to display the same message on receipts.

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State Republicans and business leaders say the legislation is a thinly veiled plan to boost Democrats’ election-year advertising efforts by forcing private businesses to display propaganda.

Gas stations that refuse to display the stickers will be subject to a $500 daily fine. Refusing to comply each day between July 1 and Election Day on November 8 would amount to a $65,500 fine.

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Josh Sharp of the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association argued ahead of Saturday’s vote that the measure represents an unconstitutional violation of business owners’ First Amendment rights.

“This industry will not be obligated to offer free advertising in an election year for the Governor,” Sharp said. “Ordering companies to take part in government-constrained speech under the threat of fines and criminal penalties is reckless and unconstitutional.”

Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker and the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed a gasoline tax increase in 2019 that doubled the previous rate from 19 cents to 38 cents. The bill also required an annual gasoline tax increase to account for inflation, according to Illinois policy. It was this annual increase that was pushed back until after election day.

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