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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.

While discouraged that proposed criminal penalties were dropped from the final legislation, INBA is nonetheless encouraged that the Attorney General and lawmakers included substantial civil fines for willful violation of FOIA.

"The bill contains exceptions that would still keep some details, such as those regarding investigations into abuse allegations at care facilities, out of the public record," Gee said. "But we believe the merits of this bill far outweigh its weaknesses, and we will ask lawmakers to consider further changes in the future."

For more than 50 years, the Illinois News Broadcasters Association has worked to educate electronic journalists and to promote open access and the First Amendment. It consists of nearly 300 professional and student journalists, and journalism educators.

For more information, contact:

Jim Gee
INBA President
217.369.8755
jimgee@siu.edu

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