Lawmakers warn bill requiring pension fund hearings to be broadcast, while admirable, will be a tough sell
Sponsored by Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign), HB4413 mandates retirement system or pension fund hearings be aired in real time and suggests archiving the recorded video on a website for public access.
It was welcomed by GOP lawmakers at the April 12 House Personnel & Pensions Committee Hearing; however, bringing the bill to fruition could be an issue, according to lawmakers.
Some live streams require a subscription to view meetings, according to Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville), who asked Ammons if her legislation met the requirement for entities or persons without a paid membership to air and watch the meetings.
“They can set any structures that meet the requirement of law to provide it publicly for live stream,” Ammon said. “They can use Youtube, Facebook or anything else they want to use to provide it to the public.”
Wehrli made clear that was not an answer to his question.
“Right now, you can’t watch this committee meeting unless you have a subscription to Blueroom,” Wehrli said. “This is a transparency bill and I think we should have this and the archives available for everything we do in this building.”
Ammon said the only reason she amended the bill to not require archiving was because some mainframe systems are both expensive and difficult to access.
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) also had an issue with the legislation and small-town America, using the City of Eureka as an example.
“I can’t imagine they are able to set up the broadcast with technology and have the capability to film these meetings, but maybe I am wrong,” Ives said.
Ives suggested she and Ammon work on a “broad-reaching” transparency bill that did not include broadcast mandates, but does address website transparency.
“One of the caveats in the past was if you had a General Revenue Fund in excess of $1 million you had to comply with that," Ives said. "I think it would be interesting to do something where if you had a population size in excess of a certain amount ..., and more particularly you had pension funds that drop below 50-percent funding, then this requirement would have to be put up."
Ives said her idea was a better fit given the burden of broadcasting on smaller municipalities.
“Just spending four months and putting 22,000 miles on my car visiting small towns and municipalities around the state, I can assure you that there are plenty of folks who would not have the capability to do it in an efficient manner,” Ives said.
Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) asked for clarification, wanting to confirm that Ammon was, in fact, removing the mandate to archive the meetings and asking if he viewed a meeting on Facebook live would that meet the bill mandate.
“Do you understand that would be an acceptable way to view it,” Batinick asked?
Ammons said she has not had an opposition to the bill from small communities.
“There are many, many services that won’t require significant investment,” Ammon said.
Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) said although Ammons brings transparency to the table with HB4413, because many local pension funds are presently being consolidated he could not vote for her bill.
“If we could consolidate a lot of these funds and make the whole pension system of Illinois on a local level and a lot more efficient, then I think I would be for the concept,” Morrison said.
HB4413 passed 11-2 and will now move onto the House floor.