A Legislative Update from the Floor of the House

I'm writing you from the floor of the House, where I just witnessed an unprecedented event. Last night, Speaker Mike Madigan tried to spike a bipartisan, agreed bill to provide a bridge to fund higher education, until a full budget is approved. Madigan forced his members to back off that agreement at the last moment—instead he filed another wildly out-of-balance spending bill. After the filing of that bill, Republicans and Democrats went back to their respective caucus rooms to discuss it.

Usually, the parties then emerge from their caucus meetings ready to fight. But something happened inside the House Democrat caucus meeting. Some House Democrats revolted. They held a lengthy and heated meeting, finally forcing Speaker Madigan to back off the unbalanced bill and accept the bipartisan compromise. A lengthy discussion was held about the agreed bill and this morning it was approved.

This is the first real crack we’ve seen in the Democrat establishment since the beginning of the budget crisis. Today, a ray of hope shone through, showing that some members of the General Assembly do have the ability to compromise. We’re still a long way to a solution, but this is at least a step in that direction.

Breen Opposes Bills that Weigh Down Illinois Businesses with Unnecessary Mandates
We’ve had some really bad bills come before us this week, including some that put additional unnecessary mandates on Illinois business. For example, our state Treasurer, Michael Frerichs, pushed a measure this week, HB 4633, to force life insurance companies to take additional and expensive steps in relation to payouts.

The bill would take the unprecedented step of declaring Illinois companies to be engaging in “unfair business practices” for following their duties under their legally enforceable contracts. I made this point and others on the House floor—you can click on the image above to watch that debate.

Milton & York Township Officials Visit Springfield
Earlier this month, some of our local officials from Milton and York Townships visited Springfield to talk with legislators about issues affecting townships in Illinois. We had a great discussion, and I appreciate all the work our elected local officials do on behalf of the citizens of Milton and York Townships.

Breen Bill that Strengthens Open Meetings Act Approved in House
A bill I sponsored that closes a loophole in the Open Meetings Act is one step closer to becoming law. HB 5683 seeks to extend the timeframe during which citizens who file Open Meetings Act grievances with the IL Attorney General’s office can seek a remedy in the court system. Today, when a violation of the Act occurs, a 60-day clock begins where a suit must be filed in the courts. A problem comes into play when an individual first seeks an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Oftentimes an investigation by the Attorney General’s office takes more than 60 days, and if upon the conclusion of the investigation a non-binding opinion is issued, the clock will have expired and the citizen left without recourse. My bill ensures that the clock doesn’t start until after a decision by the Attorney General’s office.

This loophole was brought to my attention by a situation involving disgraced former College of DuPage (COD) President Robert Breuder. A resident contacted the Attorney General’s office seeking a ruling on a violation of the Open Meetings Act about a July 2011 COD board meeting where an extension of Breuder’s contract was discussed. The Attorney General responded to the inquiry, four years later in 2015, confirmed that a violation occurred, and issued a reprimand to the board. In that case, the citizen who sought relief could not sue to have the illegal Breuder contract reversed.

HB 5683 passed with broad bipartisan support in the House and now moves to the Senate, where Senator Chris Nybo will sponsor the bill.

Breen Seeks Comprehensive Solution to Gerrymandering of Legislative Maps
The movement to remove the legislative map-drawing process from the hands of politicians is an issue that has wide, bipartisan support across the state. A measure currently pending in the Illinois House offers a good solution; but unfortunately the Democrat sponsor only offered a half-response.

HJRCA 58 was rushed to the House floor by Democrats who proposed a change for how House and Senate District maps are drawn, while completely omitting the broken process of drawing congressional district maps. The congressional map drawn by those same House Democrats in 2011 was a joke: they assigned Congressmen from Wrigleyville to represent Elmhurst and from Wheaton to represent folks at the Wisconsin border. If we are truly going to reform how legislative maps are drawn, we need to be comprehensive in our efforts and include congressional maps in the new process.

The Amendment, if approved by a 3/5 majority of the House and Senate, would appear on the November ballot, with new maps to take effect for those elected beginning in 2022. You may hear me speak in greater detail about the bill and my amendment by clicking on the image above.

Illinois House Approves Measure to Stop Fines for Late Vehicle Registration renewals
When Secretary of State Jesse White announced last fall that his office would suspend the practice of sending out reminders to drivers that their vehicle registrations needed to be renewed, I knew the impact on Illinois motorists would be significant. Because motorists who rely on those notices should not be penalized for the legislature’s inability to approve a balanced budget, I promptly filed HB 4306 in early October. My bill would have prohibited the Secretary of State from imposing a fine when the registered owner of a vehicle had not been provided with a postal mail or email notice of the date the registration expires. My bill was blocked by Speaker Madigan’s House Rules Committee, and since that time, the state has collected more than $5 million in these late renewal fees.

Well, more than a month after I filed my bill, a Democrat colleague filed an almost identical bill, which I was glad to cosponsor. Speaker Madigan allowed that bill to move. This bill is now pending in the Senate and will hopefully be advanced to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.