By Steve Horrell Edwardsville Intelligencer, Ill.
On Tuesday, Gov. Pat Quinn traveled to 12-year-old Chloe Stirling's home in Troy to sign legislation that will loosen regulations for home kitchen operations such as Chloe's home-based "Hey Cupcake!" baking business.
The "cupcake bill" was drafted after Madison County Health Department officials shut down her business until she either bought a bakery or had a separate kitchen added to the Stirlings' home.
She had used her business to provide treats for friends, relatives and fundraisers, including for the family of fallen Troy serviceman Bradley Smith.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, prohibits state and county health departments from regulating home-based cooking operations making less than $1,000 a month. Chloe's mother, Heather Stirling, confirmed Tuesday that her daughter made less than $1,000 month.
In a news release, Quinn said that the action is part of his agenda to "make business opportunities available to everyone in Illinois and drive the state's economy forward."
"Democracy is for everyone, and I salute Chloe Stirling for getting involved and making a difference for a cause she believes in," Quinn said. "Thanks to her leadership, Chloe and other small-scale, home-based entrepreneurs are experiencing the sweet smell of success today. This new law ensures others like Chloe can continue their homemade operations without worry."
In a phone interview following the press conference, Heather Stirling said that she and Chloe had traveled to Springfield in March and testified before the House of Representatives; they returned two months later to testify before the Senate.
The bill passed the House but was initially defeated in the Senate after several amendments were added. Quinn said he convinced Senators to "put the bill back in the oven," remove the amendments and reconsider it. It passed unanimously.
Quinn wasn't the only politician to make it to the press conference in Troy. Heather Stirling said that Quinn and Meier were joined by three state senators: Democrats Bill Haine of Alton and James Clayborne of Belleville and Republican Kyle McCarter of Decatur. Troy Mayor Al Adomite was also on hand.
"A lot of people showed up for the big day. That was nice," she said. "All of them spoke highly of her ambition and drive, and I think everybody is happy that it was a collaborative effort. A lot of people got together to get this done, and she is happy that it is done."
The bill, House Bill 5354, was sponsored jointly by Meier and state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago. It defines what a home kitchen operation is, and authorizes the state or county health department to inspect a home kitchen operation in the event of a complaint or disease outbreak, according to a news release from Quinn's office. The legislation is effective immediately.
"After months of hard work crafting a common-sense piece of legislation that allows Chloe and other home-based kitchen operators to continue baking and selling their goods, I am happy that Gov. Quinn is here today to sign the 'Cupcake Bill' into law," Meier said in a news release. "Now, these small business owners will not have to fear getting shut down by the local health department and will have the freedom to grow and prosper."
The controversy began shortly after a local newspaper feature story about Chloe and her baking skills. An adult called to complain about her operation, which was shut down by inspectors shortly afterward.
The story quickly made the rounds on Fox News, ABC News, and several other national networks.
Madison County Health Department officials said that the rules at the time applied to everyone and were in place for the protection of the public health.