The vote represented a key moment for a bill aimed at fixing a state law deemed so unfair that Chicago announced it would not be enforced during the summit, a move made as the city ramped up for NATO and for the protesters who would hit the streets.
Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy previously has said he supports letting people record the police and vice versa. Pressure for change also comes from multiple court rulings that the eavesdropping law violates the First Amendment, a point underscored by sponsoring Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook.
Republican Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet said the current ban is hard to defend in today's smartphone world.
Illinois is one of only a handful of states where every party involved must give consent. Making an audio recording of a police officer without consent is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under current law.
Nekritz wants to change the law so police would no longer have to give consent for audio recording. She also amended a previous, failed version of the bill to make clear that people who manipulate recordings of law enforcement officials can be prosecuted.
Oddly, current law allows video recordings so long as the sound is not recorded. Speaking against the new legislation, Rep. Dena Carli, D-Chicago, said that's because it's easy to record video from a distance, but recording audio would require a bystander to get closer to an officer, said Carli, a Chicago police sergeant. "That's a danger to the officer," Carli said.
The bill now moves to the Senate, which on Tuesday sent Gov. Pat Quinn a separate eavesdropping measure aimed at helping police record drug deals faster. The legislation would allow law enforcement officials to make audio recordings of drug deals with only the permission of a state's attorney instead of a judge.
"By that time, the drug dealers are gone," said Democratic Sen. William Haine, a former Madison County state's attorney.
Democratic Sen. Tony Munoz, a Chicago police officer, said the measure would better protect undercover police. He dismissed constitutional questions raised in debate, saying the courts can review the law. "But if we can save an officer's life, I think it's worth it," Munoz said.
The Senate also sent Quinn legislation that would bar an employer from requesting a password or other account information from a prospective worker's Facebook page.
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont won passage on a 55-0 vote, with two voting present. Radogno called the bill a "reasonable protection of people's privacy."
In addition, the Senate sent the governor legislation that seeks to crack down on misuse of parking placards reserved for disabled drivers. The legislation creates a two-tiered system, according to Sen. Maggie Crotty, D-Oak Forest.
In 2014, only people who use wheelchairs or are otherwise physically unable to feed meters would be able to park in metered spots without having to pay. Others with disabled parking placards could keep parking in handicapped-only parking lots and garages, but not get free parking in metered spots, according to Crotty.