State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Dist. 28) has sponsored a bill to ensure citizens can speak out in public without fear of civil actions against them. | Contributed photo
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Dist. 28), which aims to ensure residents have a First Amendment right to express their views and opinions in public, unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and has advanced to the Senate floor for a vote.
The legislation is the result of approximately 20 local residents being named as defendants in a lawsuit, which came about after the residents spoke out against a development plan at a Park Ridge Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in November 2014. Due to ambiguous language in current state law, when the developer filed suit to overturn the commission’s decision to reject the plan, the residents in the audience at the meeting also were named as defendants.
“Everyone should be able to voice their thoughts in a public forum without fear of lawsuit," Kotowski said. "Unfortunately, right now, state law is unclear. This legislation protects First Amendment rights of Illinois citizens so they will not face retribution for representing themselves at a public meeting."