The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers
Governor places amendatory veto on House Bill 3098
On February 8, 2002, Governor George H. Ryan returned House Bill 3098 to the General Assembly with his recommendations for change. House Bill 3098 amended the Open Meetings Act to require that the presiding officer of a closed meeting of a public body certify that the closed meeting discussion did not violate the provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The proposed amendment also provided a specific statutory form for the certification and required that the certification be made available for inspection and copying within seven working days after the meeting.
In placing his amendatory veto on the bill, the Governor proposed two changes to the legislation. First, House Bill 3098 as passed by the General Assembly amended section 2a of the Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2a (West 2000)) to provide that the presiding officer of a closed meeting "... shall certify in writing that, to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, no topic was discussed during the closed meeting or closed portion of the meeting in violation of this Act." The Governor's veto message indicates that he did not believe that House Bill 3098 "... address[ed] the scenario when a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act does occur ..." and the presiding officer refuses to sign the certification. The Governor stated "... [i]f a presiding officer believes a violation did occur, and refuses to sign the certification, he or she would be in violation of the law. He continued, "... [i]f, however, the presiding officer did sign the certification and the meeting did violate the Open Meetings Act, the officer would again be in violation of the law. Therefore, the Governor proposed a change "... to protect a presiding officer who acts in good faith by refusing to sign the certification making him or her personally liable. ..." Specifically, the Governor has recommended inserting the phrase "if it is the case" into the amendment to section 2a. The section would then read, in pertinent part:
... [a]fter the conclusion of a closed meeting ... the officer who presided over the closed meeting ... shall certify in writing if it is the case that, no topic was discussed during the closed meeting ... in violation of this Act.
Secondly, the enrolled version of House Bill 3098 required the presiding officer of a public body to certify that he or she understands section 2 of the Open Meetings Act. (5 ILCS 120/2 (West 2000).) Section 2 of the Open Meetings Act sets out twenty-three exceptions that allow a public body to conduct its meetings in closed session. It was the Governor's opinion that many of these exceptions are subject to legal interpretation. Because the presiding officer of a public body is "... seldom an attorney ...," the Governor recommended changing the certification required of the presiding officer to read:
I certify that I have read [rather than understand] section 2 of the Illinois Open Meetings Act and that to the best of my knowledge and belief no other topic was discussed during the closed meeting, or closed portion of the meeting, in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
House Bill 3098 has been returned to the House for consideration of the Governor's recommended changes. As this newsletter goes to print, the bill's sponsor has filed a motion to override the Governor's amendatory veto. Such action would require three-fifths approval by both chambers of the General Assembly.
Editors' note: Under article 4, section 9 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, the originating house of the Illinois General Assembly has 15 calendar days from the entry of the Governor's objections to a bill upon its journal, to act upon the Governor's veto by three-fifths vote. A motion to override the Governor's amendatory veto of House Bill 3098 was filed in the House on February 20, 2002. No vote was taken by that chamber within the prescribed period of time. Therefore, House Bill 3098 is considered to be dead.