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June 2009

INBA Encourages Members to Write to the Governor on FOIA Reform

From INBA FOI/OMA Chair Bob Roberts: 

The clock is officially ticking on SB 189, the rewrite of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

The General Assembly transmitted the bill to Gov. Pat Quinn's office on June 26, 29 days after it won final approval in the Illinois Senate.

Even though it won near-unanimous approval, passing the House 116-0 and the Senate 58-1, that is not a guarantee that Quinn will sign the bill. Typically, opponents use this time to urge the governor to veto the legislation, and SB 189 continues to have powerful opponents in the Illinois Municipal League and the city of Chicago.

Spokesman Bob Reed said at deadline that the measure was under review. Your humble FOI chair again voiced INBA's position of support.

Reed seemed somewhat uncertain about the depth of support in the industry for SB 189, so once again, INBA urges you to write an e-mail or letter of support - this time to the governor, with a copy to Reed.

INBA Encourages Swift Passage of the FOI Reform Bill

The Illinois News Broadcasters Association calls upon members of the state Senate to quickly pass SB189, a set of significant reforms to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

"This bill represents a good, first step to true information access reform in Illinois," said Jim Gee, INBA President.

Passed 116-0 Wednesday by the Illinois House, SB189 would strengthen and clarify the current Freedom of Information Act, and it would empower the Public Access Counselor, part of the Attorney General's office, to act directly in matters of FOIA and Open Meetings Act violations. The bill would narrow the scope of the often-abused privacy exemption to open access and would reduce the time government agencies have to respond to a request under the law. It also would reinforce the Local Records Act, which requires law enforcement to release arrest information, including mug shots, within 72 hours of arrest.

5/21/09 FOI Update: Write Your Lawmaker TODAY!

A revised analysis from FOI/OMA Chair Bob Roberts:

Just when it appeared that the movement for openness in Illinois government was poised to take a quantum leap forward, competing rewrites of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act have emerged.

While one is less than perfect, it is by far preferable to the other version.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office May 11 released a rewrite (HB1370 House Amendment 1) that, while not perfect, is a big advance from the current law in a number of ways. The other version, authored by Democratic leadership in the General Assembly, and is being submitted as an amendment to Senate Bill 1265, is a step backward.

INBA cannot recommend the rewritten SB1265. We prefer the attorney general's version (HB1370) for a number of reasons:

5/21/09 Update - Letter Templates to Lawmakers

Below are links to a letter template for voicing your support of HB1370, which makes changes to the Freedom of Information Act, and HB4165, which would codify the Public Access Counselor's Office.

HB1370_INBA_template.doc

HB1370_INBA_template.rtf

The proposed amendment to HB1370 is available here in PDF form:

HB1370ham001.pdf

A possible (and as of 6:00 p.m. tonight, yet-to-be-introduced) amendment to SB1265 is here in PDF form. INBA discourages consideration of this possible amendment:

SB1265%20Possible%20Amendment.pdf

Update 5/21/09 - Dueling FOI Drafts

A second, separate proposal to change to both the FOIA and the position of Pubic Access Counselor is being circulated. It appears to be fiendishly watered-down... to the point that it actually is a regression from the FOI law as it currently stands. We're working to find out more about it so we can craft an appropriate response. In the meantime, we still believe the HB4165 and the amendment to HB1370 should be supported. Check back here often for updates.

-- Jim Gee
INBA President

FOI Law Change - INBA Members Act Now!

Everyone,

Lawmakers are moving closer to a revision of Illinois' Freedom of Information Act. While not perfect, it represents a good start. That analysis, as you'll see below in a report from our FOI chair Bob Roberts, comes with some substantial caveats.

It is important that you talk about these proposed changes in your newsrooms this week-- the FOI law is instrumental to our mission as broadcast journalists to keep the public informed. No change in this law should be made lightly or proceed without our voice being hear. I also ask that members bring this to their news directors and general managers. These changes deserve a full-throated response from management.