Senate Week in Review

December 17, 2014
[By: Sen. Kyle McCarter]


There were several last minute, lame-duck, veto session proposals to pass the General Assembly before lawmakers left town Dec. 4. As we have witnessed in the past, legislative seasons involving lame-ducks can be a cautious period for citizens who have to live under laws sometimes passed in a hasty manner. The worst that comes to mind was the January 2011 lame-duck state income tax increase. As Mark Twain once said, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

I have more to say on that theme next week but this week I want to tell you about a fall Veto Session proposal unfairly criticized since its final passage Dec. 4.

Setting the Record Straight

Senate Bill 1342 deals with recording conversations between individuals, secretly and publically. There has been a lot of commentary on social media sites that this legislation violates and restricts personal freedoms. Many of the negative comments were associated with claims the law would make it illegal to record police officers in the course of their public duty.

The proposal does not prohibit recording an on-duty police officer who is talking with the public as part of his or her job as long as the recording does not hinder the officer’s ability to do his or her job. Additionally, the bill allows any citizen to openly record the non-private conversations of others, including a government official giving a speech in front of a group or a loud public argument.

I believe the bill is an improvement over what was determined to be an unconstitutional law. Last spring there were parts of Illinois’ “Eavesdropping” law ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. The old law technically prohibited the recording of anyone without consent from everyone involved.

Senate Bill 1342 corrects the unconstitutional provisions in the original law. It now supports your personal freedoms and liberty. The measure passed by the Legislature during the Veto Session, which I supported, draws a distinction between a “private” conversation, and a conversation that “cannot be deemed private,” such as a conversation in public. The idea behind the new, and I believe constitutionally correct, law is to balance the competing interests of a person’s right to record and disclose a conversation and the right of the another person to keep the conversation from being recorded without consent, if in the latter situation the person reasonably expects his or her conversation was considered private.

As I stated, there has been a lot of discussion, particularly on social media, that the bill will make it illegal to record a police officer regardless of the circumstance. That is simply not true. It allows the recording of a police officer in the act of fulfilling his or her job. I have been critical of bad law and bad public policy that makes its way through the legislative process onto the Governor’s desk. This time, Senate Bill 1342 is good law and good public policy I support.

Thank you Liberty Utilities

On Dec. 10 I took part in a groundbreaking ceremony in Vandalia for a new office building to be constructed by Liberty Utilities. I’m pleased the company is making a bigger commitment to Vandalia and to Illinois. Liberty Utilities provides natural gas to more than 22,000 customers in mostly small cities and towns in ten southern Illinois counties. They are a vital part of the economic life of these communities. Their new Vandalia office building is expected to be completed and open for business by the end of July 2015.

Next Week’s Column

Next week I will discuss some lame-duck, hasty lawmaking that could cause more harm than good. In the coming weeks, I’ll also comment about my hopes and expectations for the new year. Despite the hurdles and roadblocks we’ve seen imposed by state government, I’m encouraged and optimistic about what we can achieve in 2015 under new leadership.