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Governor's Amendatory Veto Draws Praise, Concern from INBA

The Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA) is pleased that Gov. Pat Quinn has used his amendatory veto pen to reduce the scope of a bill affecting the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but wishes the governor had fully vetoed the measure. HB 5154 would have exempted the performance evaluations of all public employees in Illinois from FOIA. Quinn reduced the impact of it by limiting the scope to only police officers.

INBA applauds Quinn for recognizing that 5154 was, in his words, "a departure from the groundbreaking legislation that I approved just last year, making our State's open information laws among the most robust in the entire country." However, it is important to understand that the governor's action to allow the shielding of law enforcement personnel evaluations allows a system whereby the public will not know if police officers are acting in accordance with the law, or abusing their power.

"FOIA was designed to keep public information just that--public," said Melissa Hahn, INBA president. "Gov. Quinn did the right thing by acknowledging that, and by limiting how many public employee evaluations would be impacted."

It is ironic that nearly eight months after lawmakers and the governor proudly hailed the newly-strengthened FOIA, news media groups are having to protest the even newer law that would chip away at the very accomplishment that improved government transparency.

Bob Roberts, INBA's FOIA/Open Meetings Act committee chairman, said Quinn's action is a tribute to open government. "It is clear that the new FOIA provisions, which went into effect January 1, are working. Only about two dozen requests for personnel evaluations were logged by the Illinois Attorney General's Office, which means opponents' claims that government bodies would be deluged with requests simply did not happen."

INBA is a statewide organization of professional journalists, journalism students and journalism educators, founded in 1955. It has worked diligently to support the First Amendment and the rights of all journalists, both professionals and students.

Press Contacts:
Melissa Hahn 217/528-3377
Bob Roberts 312/636-9071

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