After a contentious hearing, Representative Peter Breen advanced his first two bills out of the House Judiciary-Civil Committee this week. Breen will seek to move at least one more bill next week, prior to the committee deadline for the Spring session.
“These bills are part of my overall agenda to empower taxpayers and promote personal freedom, while curbing clearly abusive business practices,” said Breen. “I’m proud to work for bipartisan support to advance that agenda. While it’s not easy to advance bills when you’re in the minority party, working across the aisle is the only way to bring about the reforms that are vitally necessary to turn around Illinois.”
The first bill, HB2690, would change the law to allow consumers to purchase unpasteurized or “raw” milk directly from a dairy farmer. According to the federal government, up to 400,000 Illinoisans drink raw milk daily. Because current law provides for misdemeanor criminal charges for many of these sales, Illinois residents often have to purchase the milk in underground transactions. The bill will allow these individuals to purchase raw milk in the open. Breen sees this as both pro-business and pro-freedom legislation: “While we don’t have any farms in the 48th District, we have plenty of folks who enjoy drinking raw milk, whether for the taste or for the health properties of this unpasteurized product. Our ancestors drank raw milk for thousands of years, and modern technology has greatly improved farmers' ability to safely produce this product. The hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who purchase and drink raw milk in Illinois should not be considered criminals.”
Rep. Breen presented three witnesses in support of the measure, including a farmer from Cook County who sells raw milk and other organic and natural products at his farm, a woman who drinks raw milk for her health, and Wes King, Executive Director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a group supporting greater production and consumption of healthy, local food across the state. The bill was heavily opposed by a number of public health administrators who believe that raw milk should be banned altogether. After debate, the bill passed the committee with a vote of 9-2 and now goes to the floor of the House for second reading. Breen has secured numerous cosponsors, both Democrats and Republicans, to help the bill move forward.
The second piece of legislation, HB 2691, was passed by the Judiciary Civil Committee after a brief hearing. This bill would prohibit the practice of “copyright trolling.” Breen has received numerous reports of out-of-state corporations threatening individuals and small nonprofits with lawsuits, merely for posting widely-available images on their websites. These large out-of-state interests often demand thousand-dollar “settlements” to avoid legal action, while refusing to provide any objective proof that they hold copyrights to the images. In many cases, the images in question are worth five to fifteen dollars at most, not the thousands of dollars claimed by the “trolling” corporations. The bill passed out of committee unanimously and will go to the House Floor for second reading.
“This legislation is a common-sense protection for Illinois residents and small nonprofits against abusive business practices by foreign corporations,” said Breen “Folks shouldn’t have to fear financial ruin just for posting pictures on their websites or Facebook.”