After health department officials shut down the cupcake business of a little girl from Troy, Ill., lawmakers tried to craft a new set of rules for “kitchen businesses.” But one Illinois senator had added so many harmful requirements into the bill that would have crippled the home kitchen industry – fortunately, his version of the bill did not pass.
House Bill 5354, which passed both the House and Senate, creates a license to sell food prepared in home kitchens. The bill was proposed after the Madison County Health Department shut down the cupcake baking business of Chloe Stirling, an 11-year-old girl who didn’t have the proper government permits. Officials informed her family that they would either have to “buy a bakery” or build another kitchen for her operation to continue, thereby saving the community from the perils of unregulated eating. There was enough of a public outcry that legislators soon introduced a bill that would legalize the work of the sixth-grade entrepreneurs and anyone else who wanted to sell goods prepared in a home kitchen.
The original bill had at least one especially pernicious requirement that would cap monthly gross income of licensees at $1,000. But that aside, it appeared to be a decent step forward to allow home kitchens to operate, to at least some extent.
But few seemingly sensible regulations stay that way for long. Last week, the Senate Public Health Committee added a slew of new requirements to the bill. Besides mandating that the goods comply with the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as well as all federal labeling rules, the new amendment would have also required that the food preparer have a Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate and pay fees for both the certificate and registration with the local health department. Complying with state and federal labeling rules is no cheap or simple matter for small businesses, and the fees are even more nonsensical with gross earnings capped at $1,000 a month. For example, the cupcake business the 12-year-old started only took in $200 a month. With such a small income stream, licensing and certification would make a huge dent in a kitchen-based business – if it could withstand them at all.
Fortunately, most other senators rejected the new changes as going too far, and so the Senate just passed the original House version of the bill. Sadly, as in this case, the only time politicians ever seem to act to ease overbearing regulations on business is when the victim is a cute little girl who provides them with an unusual PR opportunity. The home kitchen bill will now move forward for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign. It’s progress, but if Illinois wants to reverse its out-migration problem, it needs to do more to ease the regulatory and tax burden on its small businesses owners.