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Illinois Bill Would Limit Number Of Balloons Released At Events

CHICAGO (CBS) -- You've seen the images time and time again: People gathered to mourn a death let go of balloons as a cathartic release.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory reports on the growing push to deflate that trend.

Less than two miles north of Chicago, the gossip on the water is what's in it.

"We pulled a mini fridge out once. A big piece of cabinetry," said scuba diver John Albergo. He's also fished out a walker, chair and tent.

But when he and buddy Payson Wild go sailing in Evanston, it's the smaller, floating treasure that really gets them talking.

"They don't just sink to the bottom of the lake. They go everywhere," said Albergo who is talking about deflated balloons that are very likely coming from vigils where loved ones are memorialized by sending positive vibes up to heaven.

Of course what goes up, must come down.

"This year I've found about eight or nine balloons in the lake and of course they're very dangerous to the fish," said Wild.

Adds Albergo, "You got the ribbons around them which can also cause environmental damage."

Those concerns extend from the lake to land. Girl Scout Troop 41418 picked up balloon debris around Grayslake and Gurnee as part of a Silver Award project.

They researched the discarded balloon issue then met with State Representative Sam Yingling over Zoom.

"They were the first ones who brought it to my attention," said Yingling who represents the 62nd district that covers several communities in Lake County.

That Zoom call led to House Bill 418.

The proposal makes the release of more than 50 balloons illegal on the basis it's damaging to both the environment and infrastructure.

"There's been large power outages to thousands of customers as result of these balloon launches getting tangled in high tension power lines," said Yingling.

Violators of his bill face a $500 fine.

CBS 2 asked Yingling about his message to grieving families who prefer a balloon release.

"There are a lot of positive ways we can honor the memories of our loved ones," he said, suggesting musical memorials as an example.

The lawmaker stresses his legislation is more about education and deterrence than slapping people with fines.

The balloon bill already passed in the Illinois House.

Yingling hopes it gets through the Senate this Fall.

Back in Evanston, Albergo and Wild hope the bill makes people think twice. They'd much rather relax on their boats than talk trash.

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