This morning, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) presented the “Freedom from Automatic License Plate Reader Surveillance Act” to the House Judiciary-Civil Committee, which advanced the measure to the House floor by a unanimous vote of 11-0. The measure is an initiative of the ACLU of Illinois and was vigorously opposed by law enforcement agencies. The Act, HB3289, would limit government use of automatic license plate readers, require that license plate data not be retained for more than 30 days, and prohibit the practice of government agencies selling license plate data to private companies.

“Right now, government agencies have deployed license plate readers across Illinois to track the movements of private citizens,” said Breen. “Illinoisans may not realize that, right now, their movements may be tracked without their permission and with no limitation on that tracking. These devices raise grave privacy issues, and I’m glad to work with the ACLU of Illinois to keep the government from infringing the rights of our residents.“

License plate readers are able to read thousands of license plates per hour, tracking the location and owner of all cars that pass by a particular plate reader. These plate readers can be used to identify cars connected to criminal activity or missing persons. However, government agencies can also easily aggregate data from plate readers deployed across a geographic area to keep track of the location and movement of private citizens. While many other states have enacted regulations on license plate readers, the collection and use of plate reader data are totally unregulated in Illinois today.

Breen’s bill would limit the government to six types of uses for automatic readers: electronic toll collection; traffic enforcement; parking enforcement; access to secured areas; criminal investigations; and for identifying vehicles connected to violations of law or missing persons.

The bill would also allow the government to retain data for more than 30 days in limited specified circumstances, relating to active criminal investigations or legal cases. The bill additionally would require law enforcement agencies to develop and post online their automatic license plate reader use policies, along with developing audit procedures and proper training on the use of readers.

The bill has broad bipartisan support, including chief cosponsors, Reps. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), and Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove).
Today, a bipartisan plan was presented and passed in the Illinois House to rectify the $1.6 billion budget hole in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which runs through June 30, 2015. The plan ensures the continued operations of child care programs, prisons, courts, and services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. The measure now goes to the Illinois Senate.

Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) released the following statement concerning the recent budget proposal:

“Our current budget deficit of $1.6 billion dollars threatens the continuation of essential services across the state, including services for the most vulnerable among us. The plan passed today by the House recognizes this reality and closes the deficit, allowing Illinois government to continue to operate vital programs through June 30. While tough decisions will have to be made in the near future, this is a responsible first step toward getting our finances in order.”

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.

Pictured (from left): Wes King, Illinois Stewardship Alliance; Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard); Illinois raw milk consumer (name withheld for privacy)
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 this 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 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.

“My experiences as a Boy Scout were fundamental to my entrance into politics and public service," said Breen. "I'm highly impressed by the character and engagement of these young men. These scouts should be proud of their achievements, which provide them a strong foundation for future civic leadership.”

The two classes of scouts that Rep. Breen addressed are currently working to earn their “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge. The merit badge, which is required for scouts on the path to Eagle Scout, includes a presentation by a local elected official to give the scouts insight into what it takes to be a good citizen in the community.

Governor Bruce Rauner kicked off the day with 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.

Representative Peter Breen's House Resolution was adopted.  HR75 will recognize and support the future National Desert Storm War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and designates February 28th, 2015 as Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield Day in Illinois.  

Operation Desert Storm holds a unique place in history, and this memorial will serve as a reminder of this and the veterans that served.  You can learn more about the National Desert Storm Memorial here.  

Representative Breen appreciates the service of all veterans, and looks forward to seeing this memorial come to life.