Health-data bill, subject of death threats, stalled
State Rep. Deb Conroy has moved her staff, and health-data legislation she sponsored has been sidelined in the wake of a campaign against the bill that included death threats and protests at her office.
Conroy temporarily closed her Villa Park office last week as a state police investigation began into reports of threats from people opposed to her proposal, which she said aimed to make state agencies more responsive to local health departments' requests for information.
Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat, said the legislation is needed because local health departments often must wait years to receive state health information they use in responding to local health concerns like maternal deaths or the opioid addiction crisis.
Critics claimed the bill would violate individuals' privacy rights and could lead to draconian governmental controls including isolation and "concentration camps" for people who refuse vaccinations.
Conroy disputed the claims. She said they led to foul language and abusive calls to her staff, as well as a small protest outside her office that she said included members of the alt-right group the Proud Boys.
"The lies that have been told ... have led to threats that have prevented me from doing my job and required me to move my district staff to a location where they can work and feel safe," Conroy said via text.
The legislator said her district office will remain closed until staff members feel comfortable returning to work there. Constituents can continue to reach the office by phone and email.
Conroy's bill, HB 4640, was originally assigned to the House Rules Committee after its first reading on Jan. 21 but was moved four days later to the Special Services Subcommittee, where it is likely to remain indefinitely.
Conroy, who is leaving her House seat after four terms to run for DuPage County Board, said local health departments supported the bill and the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium specifically asked her to sponsor it.
She said local health officials often are hamstrung waiting for information they need from the state in a health emergency. She said her bill merely would have required state agencies to provide requested information within 90 days and that no information could be shared involving specific individuals or violating federal privacy regulations.
She said this week that she's uncertain of the bill's fate but expects the legislation will be revived at some point.
"This legislation is very important to county health departments all over Illinois," she said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Maria Gardner contributed to this report.