HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW – IN ILLINOIS
Illinois HB 5428 is a 72 page bill that purports to give adopted adults access to their original birth certificate. This bill deals with a very controversial law that has been debated back and forth for over 40 years:
Should the State of Illinois continue to honor a sealed records law enacted in 1946 that took away from adoptees their right to access their original birth certificate without restrictions and falsifications?
The sponsor of HB 5428 is of course Representative Sara Feigenholtz (Dem-Chgo).The thrust of the bill is to give obcs to some adoptees, some of the time. But this bill contains a birth parent denial form masquerading as a Contact Preference Form. It has a section on when identifying information can be redacted. It splits adoptees into two distinct groups: those born before Jan. 1 and those born after this date and each group is treated differently.
Representative Feigenholtz knows that there is a very strong and out-spoken contingency in Illinois as well as around the United States that believes ALL adopted adults must have equal access to their obcs.. IllinoisOpen Org. and Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization are two such groups. They do not accept compromises, restrictions, or falsifications. So the problem for Representative Feigenholtz became – how to keep this bill out of those brash adoptees’ hands until it’s too late for them to act.
Representative Feigenholtz and her cronies began by building up an invisible wall of silence and secrecy around her and the bill.
Tracking the bill was made harder by giving the bill a "generic" name; a name that wouldn't call attention to itself as being about adoptee rights or birth certificates. HB 5428 is titled "Adoption Registry - Info - No Sunset."
There were no press conferences called, no press releases sent out, and no newspaper articles written about this bill. Silence was maintained on the Internet too. Nothing on FaceBook or MySpace and no twitters or blogs.
But the most surprising thing of all –there is nothing at all on Sara’s official website at http://www.staterepsara.com/index.php?pageId=4 She writes about lots of her legislation, but not one word about a bill called HB 5428.
Representative Feigenholtz did not play on an even field. She kept all info about the bill on her side while the public didn’t even get into the ball park. There were no opportunities for the public to read about the bill and conversely, no opportunities for the legislators to hear any feedback from Illinois adoptees.
What really makes me the angriest is that there were no public hearings called by the Adoption Reform Committee. Oops, did I forget to tell you who is the Chairperson of this committee? Why it’s Representative Sara Feigenholtz, of course.
Normally a public committee hearing is scheduled by the sponsor so that both supporters and opponents can come to Springfield to testify before the Committee. Both oral and written testimony is accepted. When a lot of people show up from one side or the other, it often has a lot of influence with the committee. New amendments are deleted or added, wording is changed, and alterations are often made to whole sections of the bill following the public hearing . Legislation is not supposed to be discussed only in the smoke filled back rooms that Cook County is so famous for.
The silence worked for Representative Feigenholtz. At the end of the day, HB 5428 passed on the floor of the House by a vote of 74 Yes to 39 NO. The bill is now in the Senate awaiting a committee assignment.
Usually, Representative Feigenholtz would call a press conference to announce and celebrate her victory. After all, this is the first time an adoptee rights bill has actually passed in the full House. Lesson Number One in politics: Keep controversial bills far away from the media.
Since we uncovered the news of this bill, we have been blogging, twittering, calling, writing and faxing our legislators and media all around the state. It is imperative for us to inform the public about the bill’s very existence and of course, express our opposition to it.
And finally our efforts have begun to bear fruit. Last week, Mary Lynn Fuller, Co-Founder of IllinoisOpen Org, had her Letter to the Editor published in both the Champaign News Gazette and The Paxton Record. Yesterday (Monday) Triona Guidrey had one letter in the Chicago Sun Times and one in the Chicago Daily Herald. At last! The bill is beginning to take on an identity to go with its number.
Talking and writing about a bill validates its existence Now that we have been instrumental in getting this bill some publicity, it’s no longer just a number– it’s a real adoptee bill, it’s actually written down, it’s terrible, and it’s really very important to oppose it.
So everyone – keep on writing! Continue to break Representative Feigenholtz’ sound barrier!
WHY HB 5428 IS NOT A GOOD BILL AND SHOULD NOT PASS
1. HB 5428 would give birth parents a right to stop an obc (original birth certificate) from being issued to their adoptees. . Birth mothers would have an entire year to file a Denial Form. Remember, these are the very same birth mothers who irrevocably relinquished all legal rights to their children decades ago.
2. The state would be transferring a part of its statutory authority to issue birth certificates to Illinois citizens by allowing birth parents to have a legal role in who does and who does not get an obc.
3. HB 5428 has provisions in it where the state can actually redact all identifying information from some adoptees' original birth documents. The bill would permit the state to white-out historical birth information from either a copy or an original document that the state officially issues – both unacceptable.
4. The bill would divide adoptees into two categories: those born before January 1, 1946, and those born after. The adoptees born before this date would be allowed to get their obcs without any restrictions or falsifications. Those born after Jan. 1, 1946 are the ones whowill be eligible for a birth parent veto.
5. This bill would have to have a fiscal note. Illinois is laying off teachers because it can't pay them. It's outrageous to think of the state spending even one dollar of taxpayer's money on a year-long campaign to tell birth mothers of their new "right" to file Denial Forms. This unique campaign is spelled out in the text of the bill.