TMA lobbyist defends members to IL House Committee on BIPA reform

SPRINGFIELD – The Technology & Manufacturing Association encouraged Illinois House members to reform the Biometric Information Protection Act during a House Committee hearing on SB 2979. Several TMA members have been caught up in lawsuits involving the use of biometric information. 

TMA’s State Lobbyist David Curtin shared the testimony on May 1, 2024 before the House Judiciary Committee:

Technology and Manufacturing Association

Testimony for House Judiciary Committee

BIPA Legislation – SB 2979 (Williams)

May 1, 2024 – 9:00 a.m. – 118 Capitol Bldg.

My name is David Curtin, and I represent the Technology and Manufacturing Association. Thank you for allowing TMA the opportunity to testify about the Biometric Information Privacy Act bill, SB2979.  TMA has been hearing from our member companies for over a year on the expensive payouts they have been faced with on our current law. Our member companies are small and mid-sized manufacturers employing (generally) less than 500 workers. They often are 2nd and 3rd generation manufacturers who are like family in their communities because they’ve been around so long and people know them so well. They often are the donors for the school yearbook ads or the school’s sports teams. Moms and dads of these students work at our companies, and many of them have worked at the companies for years because they are good places to work and they’re treated well. They have a lot of stability.

These companies don’t have HR departments or legal departments, although they are good enterprises that are producing needed quality products and employing 75% of Illinoisans in the manufacturing industry. The company owners don’t have a lot of money laying around. But they do have a mission, great work ethic, and produce quality products. I love walking into our member companies’ buildings. They are clean and well-lit and  you could eat off the floor. They are producing high-quality products at certain specifications for larger companies or for NASA or Boeing. They have many employees who, if you asked them at random, have been at the company for 20 years and if you ask why, they say it’s because they’re treated fairly and it’s a nice environment to work in.

But as I said, they don’t have a lot of money laying around. When they started being sued for BIPA violations, they were of course as surprised as White Castle, a very large company with tons of HR and legal resources. As White Castle didn’t figure this law’s application out beforehand, so it has been for our 200 or 300-employee companies who have been learning like the rest of us. Since 2008, our companies had never heard from anyone who had been hurt or harmed by the BIPA law. But a year or so ago, our companies started getting approached by lawyers seeking redress for their clients or they would take our companies to court. Our companies usually hire legal counsel, and the legal counsel tells them to just settle. That is because the law is written the way it is and until the state legislature fixes the language, they look at White Castle’s $17 billion judgment and immediately look to some sort of resolution so they can stay in business – for their employees, for their clients, and for their communities.

They pay these large settlements out of their own pockets. Their insurance doesn’t cover it. So it is coming out of their earnings, no matter how good a job they are doing or how well they try to follow rules and regulations. I’m not saying that the law is unfair, but I am saying that they have been operating in good faith all these years and if they knew how this law was going to be applied, they certainly would have done something earlier to make sure they are compliant with the law. Currently, TMA is giving seminars for our members on how to comply with this law.

We are hoping that we can report to our companies that the legislature has fixed this law so that it applies per person, as opposed to per swipe or whatever the biometric measuring method happens to be. We also appreciate the portion of this bill allowing for electronic signatures in order to make it easier to comply with the consent requirement in the current BIPA law.  While this is a solid bill and we want to thank Senate Leader Cunningham and Rep. Ann Williams for their sponsorship, for TMA there is one critical piece not in the bill: that the legislative fix be retroactive to 2008, when the law began.  However, Leader Cunningham has issued a “legislative intent” on the Senate floor during passage of SB2979 that while retroactivity is not part of the bill, companies can provide courts with judicial notice of the legislature’s intent to apply the “per person” as opposed to the “per swipe” in pending and future cases.

Thank you for allowing me to testify in support of this legislation. There are a lot of company owners who have been going to bed with headaches and certainly losing sleep over this current BIPA confusion. They want to do their best for their employees, their companies, and their communities. They have told us over and over that they would like this issue resolved so they can keep their companies going in Illinois. That is the reason I’m here today. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Technology and Manufacturing Association

1651 Wilkening Road

Schaumburg, IL 60173

David Curtin cell: 217-622-5986