Enforcing transparency and accountability in government meetings is the aim of a new law sponsored by three Senate Republican lawmakers.
House Bill 175 will give people more time to report a potential violation of the Open Meetings Act. Now, someone will have 60 days after discovering the violation to report it, as opposed to current law that requires a violation to be reported within 60 days from the date of the meeting.
Reforming the state’s Open Meetings Act to eliminate the loophole that exists will not only give the public more time to respond to future violations of the state’s Open Meetings laws, but will work to deter government entities from withholding information from the public. Senate Republican sponsors, Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington), Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) and Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) stressed that elected officials should welcome the opportunity to increase transparency and accountability to the people they represent.
This legislation was inspired by reports of a potentially illegal closed-door July 2013 meeting by the Oakwood Hills Village Board, which met secretly to discuss a controversial proposal to construct a $450 million power plant in their town. The public had no knowledge of this secret meeting until nearly a year later when the gathering was discovered by an attorney hired by village residents who opposed the power plant project. However, because of the loophole in current law, the meeting could not be submitted to the Attorney General’s office to enforce the provisions of the Open Meetings Act. Under current law, the 60-day window to report the violation had expired.
House Bill 175 was signed into law by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 19 and goes into effect immediately.