Lawmakers return to Springfield to take up measure for remote government meetings

(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers plan to take up a measure allowing municipalities to hold remote meetings at any time – pandemic or not – during the fall veto session this week.

Currently, the governor or the state health department must issue an emergency proclamation before a city can conduct any business remotely.

The Illinois Municipal League (IML) wants to change that through Senate Bill 482 and allow cities and towns to conduct business remotely whenever they choose.

“We would like to have the elected officials locally to be able to have that authority going forward if the disaster proclamations end at some point which I’m sure they will,” said IML Executive Director Brad Cole.

Cole said the remote meetings allow more people to become involved with local government.

“A lot of communities are seeing more public engagement,” Cole said. “More people are on the Zoom calls than were attending in person.”

The bill includes a provision that a city’s presiding officer must state why an in-person meeting is not practical.

There are opponents to the measure. Don Craven, president and CEO of the Illinois Press Association, wrote an editorial in the Galesburg Register-Mail calling for lawmakers to reject the measure.

“The public has a right to interact with their elected officials, face-to-face and not on a screen. Let’s not create an environment that further removes governing from the public’s eye. Let’s find ways to create more opportunities for personal interactions with our elected officials. As society returns to normal, so, too, should public meetings. The rule must be for in-person proceedings. Virtual meetings should be an exception, only when participants’ health and safety are at risk. Senate Bill 482 must be rejected.”

Lawmakers will also take up a proposal that amends the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act to allow cities to provide grants, subsidies or loans to local businesses with Tax Increment Financing districts that have experienced business interruption due to the pandemic.

Another bill would codify an exemption to the state’s parking excise tax for all parking facilities or garages owned and operated by municipalities, counties or townships.

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