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August 24, 2007

Governor Blagojevich signs law requiring carnival owners to conduct background checks on carnival ride operators
Law will help protect millions of Illinois children and fairgoers

SPRINGFIELD – As the Du Quoin State Fair kicks off in Southern Illinois, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed a new law to help protect millions of children and fairgoers in Illinois.  House Bill 820 requires carnival owners and operators to conduct background checks on workers to prohibit convicted sex offenders from operating carnival rides at amusement parks, fairs and other attractions. 
“Families who visit our fairs and carnivals want to have fun and spend a good time with their kids. The last thing they want to worry about is whether workers have a criminal background. This law will help make sure registered sex offenders and other convicted felons are not allowed to operate rides or work at carnivals,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
House Bill 820, sponsored by State Representative Kevin Joyce (D-Worth) and State Senator Pamela J. Althoff (R-Crystal Lake), prohibits a carnival owner or operator from employing a carnival worker who has been convicted of rape, murder or certain sexual offenses set forth in Articles 9 and 11 of the Criminal Code of 1961, or is a registered sex offender.  HB 820 requires carnival owners and operators to conduct a criminal history records check and a Sex Offender Registry check for each carnival worker they employ, and to have a substance abuse policy in place for such workers.
The legislation amends the Carnival and Amusement Rides Safety Act and authorizes the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL), which enforces the Act, to impose civil penalties if violations of the law are found.   
HB 820 requires carnival owners and operators to check the criminal history records of each carnival worker before hiring them, starting January 1, 2008.  The new law provides that:
  • A person cannot be hired as a carnival operator or assistant if that person is a registered sex offender or has ever been convicted of rape, murder or certain sexual offenses;
  • Any carnival owner or operator who hires a carnival worker in violation of the new hiring provisions shall be assessed a civil penalty of $1,000-$5,000 for the first offense and $5,000-$10,000 for the second offense;
  • Carnival owners may work with local enforcement agencies in order to expedite the criminal history records check if the worker is hired on a temporary basis;
  • Individuals under the age of 17 are exempt from criminal history check requirements.
  • Owners and operators of carnivals must have substance abuse policies in place for its workers, including random drug testing;
  • A “carnival worker” is defined as a person who is employed by a carnival to physically operate or assist in the operation of an amusement ride or attraction open to the public and;
  • The Illinois Department of Labor will establish training standards for ride operators to ensure that operators know how to operate rides safely
HB 820 goes into effect immediately, except for the background checks provision which becomes effective January 1, 2008.
Gov. Blagojevich recently signed legislation to prevent convicted sex offenders from working at county fairs when minors are present.  House Bill 156 amends the Criminal Code and prohibits a convicted sex offender to knowingly operate, manage, be employed by, or be associated with any county fair when children younger than 18 years of age are present.  A violation of this provision would be a Class 4 felony, which carries a prison sentence of one to three years and a maximum penalty of $25,000.  HB 156 will become effective on January 1, 2008.


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