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Legislators from the four legislative caucuses in Springfield issued the following guest editorial this afternoon in response to ongoing misinformation tied to a recently-approved eavesdropping bill in Springfield:

Your phone rings and the person on the other end starts a conversation about guns, abortion and gay marriage.

You weigh in with your thoughts.

Can that caller secretly record your conversation and do pretty much whatever he wants with it?

Right now, in Illinois, the answer is: yes.

That's not right. And that's why the Illinois General Assembly sent new privacy protections and public accountability standards to the governor's desk.

Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion exists over exactly what this law might do. Here are the facts.

For years, Illinois' privacy protections and eavesdropping prohibitions were among the nation's toughest. However, the same law protecting your right to privacy also could send someone to prison for recording police making arrests.

That's wrong. It was a mistake for it to have ever been in state law.

State and federal courts agreed.

At the State Capitol we've been trying to strike a balance between protecting your privacy and ensuring public accountability of police and other public officials.

SenateBill 1342 does that.

Under this proposed law, the public maintains the right to record police because police have no reasonable expectation of privacy while doing their job in public.

Secretly recording private conversations, however, would be illegal. Your privacy would be protected.

Here are a couple examples to illustrate those provisions.

-- A police officer arresting a person outside a convenience store could be recorded without consequence. A passerby is within her legal rights to use her smart phone to record the arrest and post the video on social media

-- A person calling or visiting your house to discuss controversial issues could not secretly record your conversation. For instance, if three people are sitting in a car badmouthing their spouses, one of them cannot hide a recorder in her purse without the other two first agreeing to be recorded. That secret recording would be illegal.

The key thing to remember is that recording is prohibited only if both the conversation is private and the recording device is concealed.

For example, a dad can openly record his son's baseball game and there's no problem even if he gets background conversations on the recording because the father isn't trying to conceal that he's recording.

There still would be situations where recording police and public officials could be illegal. For instance, a covert recording device left in a police car to record talks with confidential informants would violate the law.

People can and will disagree on where we drew the line distinguishing between privacy and public accountability. But given the speed at which reputations can be irrevocably ruined, a line had to be drawn because right now there isn't one.

We hope the governor will sign our legislation because we want Illinoisans to be confident that when they speak privately, the law is their shield.

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago)
State Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon)
State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook)
State Representative Ron Sandack (R- Downers Grove)
During the second week of Veto Session, the General Assembly approved SB1342, a measure that responds to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that eliminated all protections against violations of privacy with regard to recorded conversations. Since the approval of SB1342 in both chambers of the General Assembly, a great deal of misinformation about the bill has begun to surface on Internet and social media sites. Let me be clear: SB1342 in no way interferes with a citizen’s right to record police and other law enforcement in the course of their public duties.

The recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling nullified all protections against eavesdropping, and exposed everyday citizens to unauthorized taping with no hope of criminal recourse. SB1342 reinstates protections against private conversations being recorded without permission. It incorporates carefully-crafted language that does, in fact, allow citizens to record police in an open and public manner. The bill only prohibits the secret recording of conversations where an expectation of privacy is appropriate. For example, it would be allowable for a citizen to record a police officer who is apprehending an alleged criminal. It would be unlawful for that citizen to record police officers having a personal cell phone conversation with a spouse or discussing the specifics of a case with another officer at a police station.

The provisions of this bill provide all Illinoisans with legal recourse when their private conversations are recorded without consent, but also allow citizens to record those who they believe may be engaging in improper activities. It is a good bill that has unfortunately been misinterpreted by some who were very quick to post false information on the Internet and on social media sites.

If you have further questions about SB1342, please do not hesitate to contact me at  
During Veto Session, State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) had an opportunity to sit down with Ellee Pai Hong of Comcast Newsmakers and talk about the changes coming to Springfield in light of the recent election of a Republican Governor.

Click Here to view video
I am stunned to hear of Judy Baar Topinka's passing this morning. Judy was a true trailblazer and terrific public servant. Above all, she was an incredibly nice person. She will be missed.
After a relatively uneventful first week of veto session in late November, lawmakers returned to Springfield last week to finish responding to gubernatorial vetoes. Legislators were also asked to consider several pieces of new and controversial legislation. There are some positives to report, but they relate more to the votes that DIDN’T happen rather than to the votes that DID.

Sine Die=No Lame Duck Session
When session adjourned on Wednesday, December 3, the House adjourned sine die, which means “without day”. This eliminates the possibility of a Lame Duck Session when unpopular legislation is typically passed by lawmakers who are leaving office. The House will not reconvene until after Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner has taken his oath of office and the 99th General Assembly has been seated. The Governor has the authority to call us back for a special session, but Speaker Madigan has made it pretty clear that he considers the House of Representatives’ work in the 98th General Assembly to be concluded.

No Vote to Extend the Temporary Income Tax of 2011
With the possibility of a Lame Duck Session off the table, the temporary income tax hike of 2011 will sunset as originally promised. If you recall, the 67% income tax hike was approved during a Lame Duck Session back in 2011. Lawmakers who either lost their re-election bids or were retiring by choice were pressured into voting for the tax hike. Many outgoing lawmakers who voted for the bill were rewarded with lucrative government jobs after they left the General Assembly.

SB16 is Dead
All pending legislation from the 98th General Assembly expires when the 99th GA is seated on January 14, 2015. Among the expiring bills is SB16, the controversial school funding formula rewrite, which sought to strip DuPage and other collar county school districts of millions in General State Aid. Suburban legislators fought hard to stop the bill, and a real impact was felt from the massive opposition shown by residents, which included:
  • More than 7,000 opposition slips filed by citizens
  • More than 4,700 signatures on an on-line petition against SB16
  • Phone calls and emails that flooded the offices of State Representatives and Senators from across the state 
I expect and encourage the continuation of the school funding conversation into 2015, and anticipate that new legislation will be filed to change the formula. My hope is that the next bill will not pit the collar counties against Chicago Public and downstate schools, and that the ultimate reforms will be fair to all. I look forward to being a part of that process.

Unfortunately, the bills that were approved last week revealed a disappointing agenda by leading Democrats to push controversial legislation before the Republican Governor-Elect is sworn into office. House and Senate Democrats completely disregarded the demand by voters that legislators work in a bipartisan manner on legislation, and pushed through many damaging bills that hurt Illinois taxpayers, hinder job creation and preserve Chicago-style politics. Many of the bills either skipped the committee hearing process all together, or were presented for votes before all questions about financial and economic impacts could be answered. A summary of legislation approved during the final week of veto session can be found below.

Partisan Elections Bill Passes In Party-Line Votes
Calling the measure “Chicago politics at its worst,” House Republicans opposed SB 172, which allows political workers, including Chicago ward bosses, to bundle “absentee” ballots, and authorizes election clerks to start processing mail-in votes before Election Day. It imposes expensive new unfunded mandates upon election authorities, including burdens that will weigh especially heavily upon smaller, rural, and Downstate election authorities. It authorizes election judges to not only scrutinize people who vote in person, but to register new voters in person on Election Day. While the bill did include a few good components, our caucus was opposed to the permanent approval of these voting changes before we could properly analyze the temporary changes that were put in place as a trial measure for the November 4 election. I was very outspoken about the rush in passing the bill, and you may watch my floor comments here.

General Assembly Approves Bill to Impose Automatic Savings Deductions upon Illinois Paychecks
The Secure Choice Savings Program Act (SB 2758) passes along yet another unfunded mandate to Illinois small businesses. The Act is based on an assumption that persons age 18 and up who are employed in Illinois should save money with money managers. The new program will automatically deduct 3% from employees’ paychecks unless they explicitly drop out of the savings program. The program will apply, as a mandate, to all places of employment that are at least two years old and are without existing savings plans that have employed 25 employees or more throughout the previous calendar year. Approximately 2.5 million Illinois workers could be affected. I was a very outspoken “no” vote on this classic example of government overreach.

Democrats Present Trial Lawyers with Departing Gift though Expansion of Asbestos Litigation Opportunities
The asbestos litigation area of law has been very lucrative for a subset of lawyers who represent individuals who have developed health-related conditions as a result of exposure to asbestos. The material, once widely used to fireproof walls, ceilings, and pipes in public buildings, was discovered to be carcinogenic, and lawyers quickly began filing suits under a current law that included a 10-year statute of limitations. However, little or no asbestos has been used in U.S. construction since the 1980s, leading to a decline in the number of new exposures to asbestos and thus a decline in the number of tort grievances and potential plaintiffs. With the passage of SB 2221 last week, that 10-year window was essentially lifted, allowing an unending opportunity for trial lawyers to file asbestos-related suits. SB2221 also greatly expands the list of entities that can be found potentially liable. For example, asbestos lawsuits could be filed against supervising architects, design engineers, and public school boards; and could be filed based upon conduct carried out decades or generations ago, when asbestos was widely used in good faith as a building material. I joined my Republican colleagues in voting against SB 2211 because the bill out goes far beyond the laws of other states, and favors a subset of trial lawyers at the expense of business owners. It is a very business-unfriendly bill and further will hinder efforts to retain and create jobs in our state.

Sweeping Changes to Jury Structure and Pay Approved by House and Senate by Partisan Votes
Current law provides that in most cases tried under the Code of Civil Procedure, a 12-member jury may be empaneled. SB 3075 reduces this headcount, in almost all cases, from twelve jury members to six jury members. The bill also contains language that increases the daily rates paid by counties to their jury members. The new jury pay schedule mandates that jury members be paid at least $25 and up for each day of service. The actual pay rate will be determined by a sliding scale based on the population of the county where the jury member is empaneled.

House Republicans were deeply concerned about the political way this proposal was abruptly unveiled in the House and passed, in violation of norms that call for changes in court procedure to be extensively discussed by diverse legal practitioners before adoption. House Republicans were also skeptical of any offset for the increase in jury pay due to the reduction in the number of civil jurors. The fact is most jury trials are criminal trials and with the pay increase to jurors comes an unfunded mandate upon the Counties to fund the increase. As a bloc we voted against the measure.

General Assembly Approves Call for Federal Constitutional Convention
With the passage of SJR 42 last week, Illinois became the third state to call for a constitutional convention to amend campaign finance law by overturning the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Illinois joins California and Vermont as states calling for the convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. A constitutional convention can only be conducted after 2/3 of the state legislatures (34 of 50) call for such a convention.

New Eavesdropping Bill wins Bipartisan Approval
SB 1342 contains language intended to reinstate the dual-consent structure for granting permission to record words and conversation between parties. The eavesdropping law applies to contacts between private citizens and to contacts between private citizens and government officers and officials, including the police.

The recording of words and conversation is technically called “eavesdropping” and the previous Illinois eavesdropping law was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. Many parties of interest, including Illinois law enforcement, worked together to enact new compromise eavesdropping legislation. The House vote was 106-7-1, with the Senate concurring 46-4-1.

House, Senate Vote for Compromise Language to Increase Regulations on Ridesharing Firms
Many stakeholders, including municipal governments, taxicab firms, and advocates for persons with disabilities, have called for tightened regulations on fast-growing “ridesharing” firms such as Uber and Lyft. After lengthy negotiations, the House agreed to language that imposes additional liability insurance mandates upon ridesharing drivers, requires ridesharing firms to offer services to persons with disabilities, requires the firms to offer a presence in geographically underserved areas, and impose other mandates. The largest ridesharing network operator, Uber, agreed with the changes made to State law by SB 2774 as amended. Further action on this issue is expected in the 2015 spring session to deal with issues left unresolved by this bill.

70 MPH Speed Limit Coming to Illinois Tollways
Members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly overrode Governor Quinn’s veto of SB2015 which would bring the speed limits on expressways in line with the increased speed limit that was approved for downstate interstate roadways a year ago.

Speed Limits for Trucks Increased to 60 MPH on Downstate Interstate Highways
Until the passage of SB 930, trucks driving on Downstate Illinois’ interstate highways were legally restricted to traveling at the rate of 55 miles per hour, although this speed limit was not fully enforced in practice. SB930 increases this speed limit to 60 miles per hour for interstate highways only. The lower speed limit continues to apply to non-interstate highways. The bill applies to vehicles licensed in the second division, a category that includes most heavy and freight trucks. After being passed by both houses of the General Assembly in the spring 2014 session, the measure was vetoed by Gov. Quinn. Both houses of the General Assembly overrode this veto by the required three-fifths majority.

Final Week for Toys for Tots Toy Collection in Downers Grove
This year I am once again partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps and with Critical Technology Solutions and the Lemon Tree Grocer of Downers Grove for a Toys for Tots drive. Please consider delivering a new, unwrapped toy for a child at one of the following three Downers Grove locations any time between now and December 13:

Representative Ron Sandack's Office
633 Rogers Street, Suite 103

Critical Technology Solutions
1247 Warren Avenue

Lemon Tree Grocer
935 Burlington

With the adjournment “sine die” of the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon, a damaging rewrite of the school funding formula that sought to strip $140 million from DuPage County schools is dead.

“This is a huge success for the suburban taxpayers who would have been fleeced by the provisions of SB16,” said Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), who led the opposition effort in the Western suburbs. “In the 81st Legislative District, where residents pay some of the highest tax bills in the state and country, our local schools were set to lose close to $20 million per year if this careless bill was passed.”

According to Sandack, widespread and vocal opposition by suburban taxpayers had an impact on committee members who gathered testimony on SB16 during the first week of Veto Session. During the joint hearing of the Elementary & Secondary Education and the Appropriations-Elementary & Secondary Education Committees, 32 different groups brought individuals forward to testify, and the vast majority of those who spoke said SB16 was not a good solution to Illinois’ school funding issues. In addition to the individuals who testified in person, the committee was flooded with online slips of opposition to the bill.

“Taxpayers are to be commended for engaging in the process and ensuring that their voices were heard on SB16,” said Sandack. “More than 7,000 opponent slips were filed with the committees and an additional 4,700 people signed an online petition against the bill. In my time in the General Assembly I have never seen that level of citizen participation in the process. In the end, the committee members could not ignore the substantial opposition to SB16.”

Sandack pointed out that while Speaker Madigan has officially closed the books on the 98th General Assembly, Governor Quinn always has the authority to bring legislators back to Springfield for a special session. He believes, however, that if legislators are called back to Springfield it will not be to consider the school funding issue due to the lack of movement on SB16 after the November hearing. “The people who stepped forward to help defeat SB16 should be proud of their efforts,” said Sandack. “This was a prime example of how people’s voices, when banded together, can make a real difference in policy decisions in Springfield.”

While Sandack is confident that SB16 is dead, he said it is likely that the topic of school funding reform will remain on the front burner in Springfield. “One good thing that occurred as a result of SB16 is that the issue of education funding equity and adequacy is being discussed in earnest,” Sandack said. “I would expect those conversations to continue during the 99th General Assembly, and that we will see some sort of new legislation presented. I fully support additional research into the root of the equity and adequacy problems, and look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to find a reasonable solution that is fair to all taxpayers and school children.”
Prior to the November 4 election, House Democrats approved a bill that fundamentally changed voting rules for  that election in Illinois. On Wednesday, calling it "Chicago politics at its worst," State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) criticized House Democrats for pushing through permanent changes to Illinois' voting process before the results of the November changes were analyzed, without a fiscal analysis regarding total costs, and without seeking any input whatsoever from local, county and other officials charged with administering Elections.

Click here to view Representative Sandack's remarks on the House floor.