Sprawling remote legislating, Restore Illinois commission bill stalls in House

Sprawling remote legislating, Restore Illinois commission bill stalls in House

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A broad-ranging bill creating a limited oversight panel of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan, temporarily delaying Freedom of Information Act law requirements and allowing the General Assembly to meet remotely during a pandemic stalled in the House on Saturday.

The measure would have created a Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to “participate in and provide input on plans to revive the various sectors of the state's economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

But Republicans called the commission as written in the bill “window dressing” that wouldn’t give lawmakers input in the reopening process.

Another controversial facet of the bill would have allowed, for the first time in state history, lawmakers to meet and vote remotely “in times of pestilence or an emergency resulting from the effects of enemy attack or threatened enemy attack.”

Rep. Tim Butler, of Springfield, took particular exception, noting the body has met during the Civil War and any other number of obstacles.

Having face-to-face back-and-forth “makes this whole process better,” and enables lawmakers to come together on difficult bills, he said.

On top of that, virtual meetings are difficult, people are often talking over each other, and internet connections could be spotty.

Regarding the Freedom of Information Act, the bill states “no public body shall be considered in violation” of FOIA law if they fail to respond within allotted timelines to any request between March 9 and 15 days after the bill is signed into law, provided the body responds within 30 days of the effective date of the bill becoming law. That date would be whenever signed by Pritzker, provided it passes both Houses.

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