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On Harmon, the White Sox, the Bears and BIPA

Monday, Apr 15, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. None of Harmon’s comments received any major play, so I thought I would highlight them in my weekly syndicated newspaper column

Chicago-area news outlets have been so intent on amplifying every possible angle on the proposals for new publicly financed sports stadiums that they’ve sometimes missed the bigger picture.

Senate President Don Harmon last week tried to make it simple for everyone what that bigger picture is.

In a speech to the Illinois Chamber, in town for its annual lobby day, Harmon said he made it clear to White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf when he visited Springfield earlier this year seeking public funding for a new stadium, and he has tried to make it clear ever since, that there is “next to no appetite to fund a new stadium with taxpayer dollars.”

Harmon didn’t leave the door open a crack by saying “next to no appetite.” There might be some members who could be open to the idea, but there simply aren’t nearly enough of those folks right now to cobble together a majority of 30 votes in the Senate and 60 in the House and a governor’s signature.

Meetings he and other leaders have had with other sports team owners have also been blown out of proportion. Harmon told the audience all sorts of people meet with him on a regular basis, “but the common theme running through all of this is that it’s often my job to let them down.”

Hopefully, people can take a breath and stop hyping every sports team owner move as some sort of sign. I mean, we haven’t even seen an actual plan yet from the White Sox or the Bears (or the Sky, or …).

Harmon’s overall message in his speech, however, was aimed at the business community itself and boiled down to the old adage, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” He emphasized that point when he was asked about a bill to scale back penalties in the state’s controversial Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham, Senate Bill 2979 would limit the penalties for violating state law on businesses collecting biometric information (fingerprints, eye scans, etc.) from workers and customers without prior informed consent. The law currently penalizes each unlawful collection of that data, but the bill would limit the penalties to each person from whom data is collected, saving businesses that violate the law a ton of money.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last year that its hands were tied when the fast-food chain White Castle appealed its loss of a lawsuit the company claimed could cost it as much as $17 billion in damages. The company argued, in part, that the 2008 law could result in an unconstitutional “annihilative liability” for businesses caught up in lawsuits. The top court said it was up to the General Assembly to make any changes and all but begged the legislature to act.

When Harmon was asked about possible additions to the bill, he said the proposal was designed specifically to address the Supreme Court’s ruling and added (like with the stadiums) he didn’t see “an appetite for additional amendments.”

Harmon also said he was “a bit disappointed” at the opposition from some top business groups. “We are delivering a huge win for Illinois businesses,” Harmon claimed. “It’s not everything they want, but if you listen to my speech, progress is good. Nobody gets everything that they want.”

“I also recognize,” Harmon said, “that many bills are awful and horrible and the end of the world until they pass, when they’re suddenly really good. And I hope that the business community will recognize the importance of this reform when it passes.”

Two days later, Cunningham called it for a vote.

Some groups had pushed Cunningham to explicitly make his law retroactive to help companies that have already been hit with massive penalties. But Cunningham said courts could “take judicial notice” of the amendment when asked to determine or reduce an award.

Asked by Senate Republican Leader John Curran about data center owners who are worried they could be sued for merely hosting illegally collected biometric information stored by their clients on their cloud servers, Cunningham acknowledged the issue but said no data centers have yet been sued. He said he wanted to focus on the Supreme Court’s “invitation” to address the law. He did not rule out future action, though.

After bringing up another issue raised by the trucking industry, Curran eventually said he’d recommend supporting the bill, and it passed 46-13, with five Republicans joining their leader.

Perfect was not the enemy of the good.

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * CWB | Target’s anti-shoplifting camera program is illegal, attorneys claim, seeking $1K to $5K damages per visit for Illinois customers: A woman named Arnetta Dean is the lead plaintiff in the suit. Her lawyers claim she “has entered Target’s stores on numerous occasions,” and each location she visited is believed to be equipped with facial recognition video surveillance systems. Yet, she claims she was never notified, nor did she give Target permission to collect her biometric data. If Dean proves her allegations, Target should award her and every affected Target customer who joins the suit “$5,000 for each and every intentional and/or reckless violation” of the state’s law and “statutory damages of $1,000 for each and every negligent violation,” the suit claims. According to the filing, “thousands” of Target customers might be eligible for payouts. Illinois courts have found that the biometrics law allows aggrieved parties to receive $1,000 to $5,000 for every violation within five years.

    * Daily Herald | ‘It’s complicated’: Why lobbyists think Bears could be back to Arlington if bid for lakefront stadium fails: John Dunn and Matt Glavin of Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, the firm hired by the school districts last year, have met with political leaders and fellow lobbyists for the NFL franchise as the team navigates the corridors of the state Capitol in its latest bid for public subsidies. “If the Bears can get it done in Chicago, I think they’ll try to do it. If they can’t get it done in Chicago, this is just me guessing, I think they’re going to be right back here (in Arlington Heights),” said Dunn, who was former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s director of intergovernmental affairs. “They’re shopping for the best deal they can get, like any other business.”

    * Tribune | Economic development leader Andrea Zopp adds a new twist to her roster: The Chicago Bears: But now Zopp is joining the Chicago Bears organization. Working on a part-time basis as senior adviser for legal and business affairs, she’s set to parlay her experience to consult for the team at a time when Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren envisions construction of a closed-roof stadium complex south of Soldier Field that will create jobs and opportunities. In March, the Bears announced plans to contribute $2 billion to a publicly owned stadium at the museum campus site and are crafting a more formal presentation.

    * Tribune | As the Chicago Bears prepare to unveil their vision for a new downtown stadium, projects in other NFL cities could prove instructive: At present, the Friends of the Parks organization continues urging the Bears to consider alternative city sites outside the Museum Campus, emphasizing its aim to limit development along the lakefront. Resistance from the group likely will be just one significant obstacle for the Bears, particularly after the its opposition proved influential in thwarting filmmaker George Lucas’ plans to build a museum in the same area.

    * WGN | Report: City shoots down latest proposal in Bears, White Sox stadium discussions: Crain’s Justin Laurence reported mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration is holding discussions with the Bears and White Sox over the course of the next week as the two professional sports franchises try to arrange a financial deal that would allow them both to build new stadiums within city limits. […] Currently, the funds generated through the city’s amusement tax — Which come from a 9% tax on ticket sales at sporting and other entertainment events and services across the city — Go to general services and other amenities Chicagoans expect from their city government.

    * Tribune | ‘No one likes losing.’ Chicago White Sox drop to 2-13 — the worst 15-game start in franchise history.:
    The Sox took another step in the wrong direction as their record fell to 2-13 — the worst 15-game start in franchise history. The previous low mark through 15 games was 3-12, which had occurred three times — most recently in 1968. “Look, we’re getting punched in the gut right now,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “This is how you find out what we’re made of as a group.”

    * The Athletic | White Sox can move to Nashville, but the Campfire Milkshake stays in Chicago: As conversations go before a White Sox game, it was about as upbeat as could be. As often is the case, the food and beverages at 35th and Shields are more enticing than the on-field product. If the White Sox ever move to Nashville, they could just turn the stadium into an upscale farmers market.


  1. - Macon Bakin - Monday, Apr 15, 24 @ 12:18 pm:

    This BIPA lawsuit against target sure is something I say this as someone without a legal background…

  2. - Loop Lady - Monday, Apr 15, 24 @ 1:03 pm:

    I am old enough to remember when sports were not solely a business. In my view, expansion of all sports leagues had watered down the quality and padding millionaires pockets.

    Good on Harmon. The Gov has done a great job of capturing and funding a diversity of business in the State.

    There’s more than one way to go about it.

  3. - Thomas Paine - Monday, Apr 15, 24 @ 4:35 pm:

    The state has every right to say yes or no to any professional team. And they don’t necessarily need to treat everyone the same.

    Just don’t be mad when the White Sox leave, and don’t assume that the fans won’t blame to government when businesses and families that depend on a team lose income . Blaming government is our default.

  4. - RNUG - Monday, Apr 15, 24 @ 4:36 pm:

    Wonder if I should be searching my credit card statements for my visits to Target over the last 5 years?

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