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.”
Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) has been assigned to the House Education Task Force, which had its first meeting last week, to analyze the proposed Illinois School Funding Reform Act of 2015, SB 1. SB 1 would completely overhaul the formula for how much money the state provides K-12 school districts.
“While some reform of the school funding formula is necessary, many of the proposed ‘fixes’ will raise property taxes for suburban homeowners,” said Breen. “That’s not right. Illinois taxpayers spend large amounts of money to educate kids, with very mixed results for their investment. We should not penalize successful districts using proven effective educational methods only to prop up districts that won’t embrace reform.”
SB 1 is based on last year’s controversial Senate Bill 16, and has been expanded with the input of local superintendents, educators, and parents statewide. This new legislation would replace Illinois’ General State Aid formula, with the stated intent of providing Illinois school districts with significant low-income populations more combined funding from state, local, and federal sources. Moving forward, the House Education Task Force will oversee this legislation.
Representative Breen is honored that Leader Jim Durkin has assigned him to this task force. Breen is committed to fiscally responsible educational reform, to ensure that the state’s funding formula meets the needs of every Illinois child.
The bi-partisan task force is chaired by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), and consists of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans from across the state.
Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) participated in the Potawatomi Trails’ 18th annual Boy Scouts Merit Badge University that was held at both Elmhurst College and York High School on March 7. His dynamic presentation to the young men focused on government, the work Breen does for the 48th District as State Representative and how much of what they learn as Boy Scouts can be used to influence public policy as a citizen.
Rep. Breen said, “the door-to-door fundraising that they do as scouts is good training for a future in politics. My experiences as a Boy Scout were fundamental to my entrance into politics and public service. I was impressed by the character and knowledge of these young men.”
The two classes of Scouts that Rep. Breen addressed are currently working to earn their “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge, and were eager to meet Representative Breen: a local leader who could give them insight into what it takes to be a good citizen in the community. Earning this badge is an integral part in the Boy Scouts’ education; and with the help of Rep. Breen, they learned how important it is for them to be involved in their communities.
Governor Bruce Rauner kicked off the day with some brief remarks. This local scouting event has grown from about 100 scouts to over 2000 attendees at one of the largest gatherings of scouts in the country, with young men coming as far as California.
The Boy Scouts are important to Rep. Breen, and being able to speak to these young men was an honor for Breen, who is an Eagle Scout himself.
Click here to read My Suburban Life's Q&A with Rep. Breen.
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.
Click here to read My Suburban Life's article on Gov. Rauner's visit to Lombard.
Click here to read the Chicago Tribune's article on the press conference where Rep. Breen and several suburban legislators proposed reforms to College of DuPage and community colleges in general.
Click here to read My Suburban Life's story on Rep. Breen's proposed legislation that would ban severance agreements larger than one year's salary and benefits. This legislation is in response to the COD "Golden Parachute" scandal.