Ban on ‘captive audience’ meetings, AI regulations among 466 bills to pass this session

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The Illinois Capitol dome is pictured through the trees in Springfield. Lawmakers adjourned their spring session this week after passing 466 bills this year. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Andrew Adams)

A bill banning what unions refer to as employer-sponsored “captive audience” meetings about religion and politics has cleared both chambers of the General Assembly.

It was one of 466 measures to do so during the Illinois legislature’s recently concluded spring session, including measures targeting artificial intelligence and allowing for digital driver’s licenses. A Capitol News Illinois analysis shows 287 of the bills passed in the session’s final two weeks.

If the “captive audience” bill is signed by the governor, employers would still be allowed to discuss religion and politics with employees, but workers would have the right to skip the meeting, whether on or off the clock, without retaliation.

The Illinois AFL-CIO labor organization brought the legislation to state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, and celebrated its passage as a win for workers. In a news release, Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea said the meetings “are a direct violation of workers’ rights.”

The meetings were made legal in 1947 under what’s known as the Taft-Hartley Act. But labor advocates across the country, including other state chapters of the AFL-CIO and the current National Labor Review Board General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, are working to definitively outlaw mandatory attendance at meetings where anti-union rhetoric is shared.

Read more:Labor-backed bill banning ‘captive audience’ meetings awaits House action

Citing the Colorado governor’s recent veto of similar legislation in which he said he would sign a narrower and more neutral bill, Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said during debate that the pending legislation, particularly who it would impact and how, is not well defined.

“Let’s not play politics with unconstitutional legislation that’s going to get thrown out in the court of law,” Plummer said.

Of the six states that have introduced similar legislation, only two have ongoing lawsuits. One is in Minnesota, filed by business groups including the National Federation of Independent Business Inc., and another is in Colorado, which was partially dismissed in 2023.

Senate Bill 3649 advanced out of the Senate on partisan lines, 39-18, after clearing the House 79-30 with some Republican support. The final version was amended to specifically exclude certain groups – including 501(c)(4, 5 and 6) organizations – that participate in lobbying activities and generally exist for the purpose of advocacy.

The bill still needs to be signed by the governor to become law.

Artificial intelligence protections

A bill that would outlaw the creation and sharing of child pornography made using artificial intelligence was one of several AI-focused measures to clear the General Assembly in its final days.

House Bill 4623 , which was backed by Attorney General Kwame Raoul, would expand current child pornography laws to also cover AI-generated child pornography.

Backers of the bill said if AI-generated child pornography rapidly increases, law enforcement’s ability to identify real cases would be more difficult.

The bill, which passed both chambers unanimously, would also ban the distribution of various AI-generated sexual images without consent.

House Bill 4875 would protect individuals from having their voice, image or likeness duplicated by AI for commercial purposes without their consent. The bill would allow recording artists and those they contract with to seek damages for nonconsensual use of their likeness.

The measure, as amended, cleared both chambers unanimously.

House Bill 4762 , also passed by both chambers unanimously, would protect performers and other individuals from wrongful use of AI replicas. The bill would make contracts unenforceable if the performer would have performed in person, the use of the digital replica was not defined or detailed in the agreement, and if they were not represented by a lawyer or labor union during the agreement.

Digital IDs

The secretary of state’s office would be able to issue digital identification such as driver’s licenses, learner’s permits or state IDs to Illinois residents under House Bill 4592 , which passed both chambers unanimously.

The cards would be issued “in addition to, and not instead of” a physical ID, under the bill.

The measure has an effective date of Jan. 1, 2025, giving the secretary of state’s office time to implement and test a new digital ID platform before it goes live.

Under the bill, agencies and private entities may choose if they want to accept electronic IDs in place of physical ones, but “upon request by law enforcement, a credential holder must provide the credential holder’s physical credential.”

A digital phone application that registers identification cards with the secretary of state’s office would cost a maximum of $6 under the bill heading to the governor’s desk.

In 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union published a report warning of potential privacy risks that could come with digitizing government IDs. The bill addresses some concerns by barring law enforcement from requesting or searching through an individual’s phone.

It also requires the secretary of state’s office to “use an electronic credential system that is designed to maximize the privacy of the credential holder … and shall not track or compile information without the credential holder’s consent.”

Family obligation discrimination

House Bill 2161 bans workplace discrimination based on family responsibilities.

Senate sponsor Sen. Natalie Toro, D-Chicago, said the bill’s goal is to “prohibit discrimination on an assumption that your family responsibility will impede your work performance.”

For example, Toro said, a woman cannot currently be passed over for a promotion because of her family status if the promotion goes to a man with a similar status. But she could lose out on the promotion to another woman with no children.

Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, called the bill unnecessary, as the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted federal Title VII – which prohibits gender and sex-based discrimination – to apply to cases regarding family obligations.

The bill passed the Senate 37-19 and the House 74-29. It will become law if signed by the governor.

Exoneree higher education benefits

Senate Bill 3771 allows exonerated individuals to pass a state benefit covering higher education costs on to dependents. It passed the Senate 45-11 and the House 71-38.

Illinois leads the nation in exonerated individuals, with over 500 people having wrongful convictions overturned. Payouts to exonerees in Illinois remain some of the lowest in the country, but the Higher Education Student Assistance Act covers public university tuition and fees for exonerees.

Read more: His conviction was overturned after 35 years wrongfully served. State law caps his compensation at 14 years.

The bill allows the state benefit to cover private, not-for-profit university costs so long as the total does not “exceed the maximum grant payable” towards a grantee in “the most expensive comparable” program at an Illinois public university.

If the recipient, either an exoneree or their dependent, maintains “satisfactory academic progress,” grant funds can pay up to eight semesters or 12 quarters of full tuition and mandatory fees.

Mold public health campaign

Senate Bill 1087 requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to create a public health awareness campaign informing the public about the dangers and importance of removing indoor mold. It also requires IDPH to establish “procedures for parties that provide mold remediation services to register with the state.”

The bill passed out of both chambers without opposition.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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