Representative Peter Breen Advances Bill to Guarantee Citizen Rights Under Open Meetings Act

A bill sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) to strengthen the Illinois Open Meetings Act is advancing to the House floor, after receiving a unanimous favorable vote in the House Judiciary-Civil Committee on Tuesday.

HB 5683 would amend the Open Meetings Act to extend the timeframe to seek a judicial remedy for citizens who file Open Meetings Act grievances with the Illinois Attorney General’s office. “Today, those who believe a violation of the Open Meetings Act has occurred have just 60 days from the date of the violation to seek remedy from the courts,” said Breen. “But many citizens first contact the Attorney General’s office for an opinion by the Public Access Counsel (PAC). If the PAC investigation takes more than 60 days, the clock for filing a grievance with the courts will have expired. This bill will start the 60-day clock only after the decision by the Attorney General’s office.”

Breen’s bill applies in cases where the Attorney General’s office issues “non-binding” decisions, as it does in response to the large majority of complaints. “Under current statute, a non-binding opinion is not reviewable, whereas a binding opinion is reviewable in court,” Breen said. “Today, if an individual does not receive a binding opinion—and even if the offending unit of government ignores the Attorney General’s non-binding opinion—that individual is left without any effective relief for an Open Meetings Act violation. This bill will ensure that every citizen can have their day in court on violations of the Act.”

HB 5683 will be heard on the House floor in the coming weeks.