This week, Representative Peter Breen filed six bills on a variety of subjects, his first bills filed as a state legislator. Breen's initial bills focus on protecting individual rights, promoting small business, limiting abusive lawsuit threats, promoting open government, and removing state mandates from non-home rule communities. The bills are as follows:
Eavesdropping Act: HB 2688 amends the controversial Eavesdropping Act amendment adopted during the lame duck legislative session last year. Breen's amendment would protect the right of undercover journalists, government watchdogs, and others to audio tape a conversation that they are a part of, occurring in a place open to the public. Breen would also greatly reduce the penalty for taping improperly, from a felony to a misdemeanor. Breen stated, "citizens and journalists should not be turned into criminals for recording conversations in public places. Whether it's a journalist documenting illegal or unethical behavior or a worker documenting sexual harassment by her boss, folks should not be turned into felons for recording conversations that they're a part of, in places open to the public."
Grade A Pasteurized Milk and Milk Products Act: HB 2690 allows for the sale and distribution of raw milk, without fear of legal liability, as long as rules set forth by the Department of Public Health are followed. According to Breen, “this legislation will benefit both consumers and small family farmers. Many of my neighbors enjoy drinking raw milk, but they must go to great lengths to purchase it, even sometimes going directly to the farmer. There's no reason to forbid people from purchasing raw milk at their neighborhood market, as long as proper public health regulations are followed. Our ancestors drank raw milk for thousands of years, and modern technology has greatly improved farmers' ability to safely produce this product."
Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act: HB 2689 requires internet filters on public library computers to prevent the viewing of hard-core pornography on those computers. Breen emphatically stated that, “I’ve heard from many moms over the years that adult men are regularly viewing hard-core pornography on public library computers, in full view of children and others. This is an abuse of taxpayer resources and creates a hostile environment for public library employees and patrons. No child should have to walk past obscene and abusive material in order to take advantage of the educational opportunities available at their public library.”
Open Meetings Act: HB 2687 expands the current power of members of the public to record a government meeting to also allow taping before and after the meeting. Breen noted that, “there should be no protection for public officials who behave unethically or illegally ‘out in the hallway’ and ‘off-camera’ before or after a public meeting. The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to allow the public to see and understand the workings of their government, and this bill will bring greater transparency to the legislative process.”
Consumer Fraud & Deceptive Business Practices Act: HB 2691 prohibits the practice of “copyright trolling.” Out-of-state corporations claiming to have copyrights to widely available images on the internet are regularly threatening Illinois individuals and small nonprofits with lawsuits, merely for posting these images on their websites. These large out-of-state interests demand thousand-dollar “settlements” to avoid legal action, but without providing any proof that they hold copyrights in the images – or that the images are worth more than a few dollars, much less thousands of dollars. Breen noted, “individuals and small nonprofits are being shaken down for thousands of dollars by foreign interests for alleged copyright infringement, but these interests refuse to even prove that they own the images involved. Folks shouldn’t have to fear financial ruin just for posting on their websites pictures that they believe in the public domain.”
Equal Powers for Non-Home Rule Communities Act: HB 2686 allows non-home rule communities, like Lombard and Lisle, the same powers as home rule communities, except for the powers to tax, impose fees, or to incur debt. Breen stated, “the General Assembly places restrictions on non-home rule communities, like the villages of Lombard and Lisle, that do not bind home-rule communities. Residents of my district in Lombard and Lisle have the same right to safe housing regulations and public safety regulations as state law allows folks in Glen Ellyn and Wheaton to have. This bill is a common-sense way to give our municipal governments maximum flexibility to set the right policies for their local residents.”
These legislative initiatives will work to better the state, starting with the individual and positively affecting communities as a whole. Rep. Breen is eager to move forward with these bills and is looking ahead to making an impact in the 99th General Assembly.