Bill that Strengthens Open Meetings Act Clears IL House

Legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that closes a loophole in the Open Meetings Act and improves government transparency received unanimous approval in the Illinois House on Tuesday.

HB 5683 would 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. “It is common practice for citizens who believe an Open Meetings Act violation has occurred to first contact the Attorney General’s office for an opinion,” said Breen. “If the investigation into the allegation takes more than 60 days and a non-binding opinion is issued, the period of time during which a suit can be filed in the courts will have expired. HB 5683 will delay the start of the 60-day clock to the point of a decision by the Attorney General’s office.”

Breen pointed to the bipartisan sponsorship of the bill as an indicator of the bill’s importance. “This is one of those issues that is not ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’: it’s an issue of fairness for all,” Breen said. “This bill will preserve the intent of the Open Meetings Act and close a loophole that was preventing some Illinoisans from having their day in court.”

Last year, the Attorney General’s office issued a decision agreeing with a local resident who had challenged an illegal vote on a contract extension for the disgraced former president of the College of DuPage and reprimanding the COD Board. However, because that Attorney General decision was issued more than 60 days after the challenged vote, the resident was unable to go to court to seek to void the illegal contract.

HB 5683 now moves to the Senate for consideration.