Chicago Sun Times
Lawmaker's death could doom anti-slaughter bill

November 19, 2003


THE BLITZKRIEGING BILL to ban horse slaughter in Illinois successfully made it out of the executive committee of the state House of Representatives on Tuesday. But with only two days remaining in the Legislature's fall veto session, a sad and unexpected act of God might throw the measure into a pre-emptive limbo if it reaches the full House floor.

State Rep. David Wirsing (R-Sycamore) -- one of the leading opponents of the anti-horse-slaughter proposal -- died suddenly at his home Sunday and will be buried Friday. In the interim, some Republican House colleagues previously in favor of the bill might decline to vote for its passage until the next full legislative session in January out of respect for the deceased state lawmaker.

SUCH A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE likely would leave the anti-slaughter law short of the 71-vote ''super majority'' it needs to clear the veto session of the 118-member Illinois House. And such a pre-emption would leave the plans of the Belgian-owned Cavel International on track to reopen a horse slaughterhouse -- one of only three in the United States -- early next year in Wirsing's home district.

''At this point, I honestly don't know if we have the votes anymore to get this bill passed in the veto session,'' sponsoring State Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago) said Tuesday night.

''There are 67 Democrats in the House, and approximately 57 are with us on this. I honestly thought we had close to 20 Republicans until Rep. Wirsing's unfortunate passing.

''Now, with the entire Republican caucus scheduled to go to DeKalb for his wake Thursday evening, I don't know how many of our supporters in that group might decide to vote 'present' on the bill for the time being out of respect to him. That would mean we have to reload everything starting in January. Now we won't decide whether to even call the bill in front of the full House until after we count our votes again [today].''

THE PROPOSED NEW LAW -- SB 1921 with House Amendment No. 1 -- passed the executive committee of the Illinois House by a 7-3-1 vote Tuesday. Wirsing, a pork farmer, was the committee's 12th member.

Among those testifying in favor of the new law in Springfield were thoroughbred horse trainers Jan Ely and Gail Vacca. The roster of those asking for its defeat included a professor from Southern Illinois University, a longtime humane society administrator, two members of the Illinois Horse Council and representatives of Cavel.