Constituents Raise Objections Citing Concerns Over Intimidation and Special Interests
SPRINGFIELD, IL.– Today, legislation known as the ‘Guilty by Association bill’ advanced out of the State House Judiciary Criminal Committee. Citizens across Illinois are raising concerns about HB 1633, sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D – Belleville), citing concerns that the bill is heavily influenced by out-of-state special interests, will intimidate citizens from expressing opposition to new sources of pollution, and creates vague parameters that will be difficult for both individuals and law enforcement to interpret.
Opponents of the bill have dubbed HB 1633 the ‘Guilty by Association bill’ because it would allow industrial polluters to suppress opposition to proposed projects by threatening excessively harsh penalties on Illinoisans and nonprofit groups for legally exercising their right to free speech and assembly, and by unfairly tying them to the illegal actions of other independent actors.
“This bill places an extreme burden on nonprofit organizations of all sizes,” said Jen Walling, executive director, Illinois Environmental Council. “Any nonprofit could be found guilty by association, receiving a million dollar fine and jail time, if an independent actor identified by law enforcement as associated with their organization–in any way–is accused of intentionally or unintentionally committing one of the ambiguous crimes outlined in the bill.”
Walling continued, “Over 1,000 Illinoisans have already contacted their lawmakers in opposition to this bill and I expect this number to greatly increase as this bill begins to receive the negative attention it deserves. You will not see that kind of mobilization on the other side of this issue because this bill originated at the request of out-of-state, extreme right-wing special interests, not out of a need identified by everyday Illinoisans.”
HB 1633 mirrors legislation proposed in other state legislatures across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a national right-wing, corporate-backed organization that recruits state legislators to run model conservative legislation.
“This bill is not about protecting private property or public safety; Illinois already has criminal laws against trespassing, property damage and similar offenses,” said Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Khadine Bennett of the Illinois ACLU. “This bill is about one thing: imposing excessive criminal penalties in order to chill environmental protests at the very sites where many of the urgent threats to our environment arise. We have seen the power of such protest at the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone pipeline. The full House should reject this measure and demonstrate its commitment to free speech and protest in Illinois.”
The bill will be debated next on the House Floor.