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Paul Sassone: New handicap law will leave many unlucky drivers

<p>Paul Sassone</p>

Paul Sassone

We’ve all seen them: lithe and limber folk who place a handicapped sticker in the front window of their car and then walk briskly into a store to shop.

It’s illegal and denies parking to genuinely handicapped drivers.

Illinois has a solution. A bill sponsored by State Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) and passed into law creates two kinds of handicapped parking placards instead of one.

Previously, 600,000 Illinois residents with handicapped placards not only could park in spaces designated for the handicapped, they could park for free at any parking meter.

Under the new law that gets going in 2014, there will be placards for the handicapped and another for the severely handicapped.

Severely handicapped motorists are those in wheelchairs, those who have trouble walking more than 20 feet and parents of disabled children. Their parking privileges will not change.

Less severely disabled motorists — not in wheelchairs and who can walk more than 20 feet — still will be able to park in handicapped spaces, but no longer will be able to park for free at parking meters.

OK, I get it.

One question:

What has any of this to do with preventing healthy people from misusing a family member’s placard of either kind? Oh, yes, there are fines. But there always were fines for misusing handicapped parking placards.

So why the need for this complicated new law in which state bureaucrats define who is handicapped and who is less handicapped — I can walk 22 feet, so I am less handicapped that someone who can only walk 20 feet?

Then I figured it out.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel initially opposed May’s legislation. Then he about-faced. Why?

The the new handicapped parking law will decrease the number of Illinoisans eligible to park free at meters throughout the state. As proud owner of one of the worst contracts in the history of contracts, Emanuel must reimburse the company that has a 75-year parking meter agreement with the city for each handicapped motorist who parks free at Chicago meters. This new law saves the city of Chicago money.

And in the suburbs, more and more there no longer are meters at each parking space. Instead, there is one giant parking meter for an entire area. This means more walking for drivers.

And the unlucky drivers will be those who can walk 22 feet and don’t qualify for the severely handicapped parking placard.

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