The Illinois Press Association has proudly named Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, as the recipient of its 2012 Legislative Service Award. The distinctive and rare honor, last given by the IPA in 2009, recognizes Nekritz for her outstanding work on legislation to amend Illinois’ outdated eavesdropping law and for her overall commitment to open government and transparency.
Todd Wessell of Journal & Topics Newspapers in Des Plaines made the presentation Oct. 12 at the Cook County Suburban Publisher’s Annual Meeting.
FROM LEFT: Todd Wessell of Journal & Topics Newspapers, Des Plaines, Rep. Elaine Nekritz and IPA Executive Director Dennis DeRossett.
Last December, Nekritz introduced House Bill 3944 to allow citizens to audio record police officers in the performance of their public duties in public places. Despite an individual’s First Amendment right to audio record police, Illinois citizens were being charged with a Class 1 Felony which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Nekritz, along with several Illinois courts, disagreed with attempts to punish and interfere with citizens’ First Amendment rights.
Almost immediately as it was introduced, Nekritz’s legislation faced massive opposition from certain members of the law enforcement community causing the legislation to initially fail in the House. Nekritz pushed forward, however. “We were amazed at how Elaine never wavered,” said Dennis DeRossett, Executive Director of the Illinois Press Association. “She worked tirelessly to do the right thing for her constituents and for all Illinois citizens. Her hard work and determination deserve recognition.”
In late May, Nekritz was able to overwhelmingly pass a reintroduced version of her bill out of the House in the form of Senate Bill 1808. Despite this legislation not being called in the Senate, Illinois’ high court has currently prohibited all prosecutions of citizens who audio record police. “I think Elaine deserves a lot of the credit for keeping innocent people from being prosecuted,” added DeRossett. “She brought a lot of positive attention to a harmful, statewide issue that needed to be seriously addressed. And she succeeded.”
"I have been and will always be committed to doing the right thing by the people of the state of Illinois as a state legislator," Nekritz said in accepting the honor. "I was proud to work with the Illinois Press Association and the other organizations that recognized that this eavesdropping law was seriously out of touch with our values in Illinois. I greatly appreciate this award. I look forward to returning to Springfield to work with the Illinois Press Association and others on real answers for our serious problems and to push for more open, accountable government."
The IPA also lauds Nekritz for her leadership as Chair of the House Judiciary-I Committee and for her support in providing citizens access to an open and honest government. Accountability and transparency have always been high priorities for the IPA and over the years, Nekritz has proven she is absolutely committed to keeping government open and honest. DeRossett ended, “the IPA is honoring Elaine, but really, it has been an honor for the IPA just to work with her.” Congratulations to this year’s IPA 2012 Legislative Service Award winner, Representative Elaine Nekritz.