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INBA Applauds Governor for Signing FOIA Reform Bill

The Illinois News Broadcasters Association is applauding Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to sign into law SB 189, the long-overdue revision of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

INBA President Jim Gee said he is especially happy that Quinn did not buckle under pressure to use his amendatory veto power to weaken the bill.  “INBA is very pleased that the governor decided to do the right thing and sign the bill without amendments,” Gee said.  “Now that this is law, it’s up to everyone in Illinois to make use of it and make sure that the letter of the law is being followed.”

The rewritten law reduces the number of loopholes, reduces the time allowed to respond to FOI requests, allows both sides to teach agreement on the length of an extension should one be needed, makes permanent the public access counselor position in the Attorney General’s office, gives the public access counselor the ability to issue binding and enforceable opinions, provides for civil  penalties of between $2,500 and $5,000 for willful non- compliance and provides for training by the attorney general that will focus on observance and compliance -- not how to avoid complying with FOIA requests.

The measure faced stiff opposition from the Illinois Municipal League and the city of Chicago.  An alternate version of the bill, which would have drastically weakened the existing FOIA and would have w ritten in a number of new exemptions, was briefly considered but was never formally filed.  The Municipal League and the city of Chicago continued to lobby the governor and his staff behind the scenes for an amendatory veto after the measure received near-unanimous legislative approval in June.
 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan continues the search for a permanent public access counselor.  INBA is hoping that she chooses someone who has both legal and journalistic background and a passion for freedom of information, hallmarks of her first public access counselor, Terry Mutchler, who left to take a similar job with the state of Pennsylvania.

In addition, Gee applauded Quinn for signing into law SB 1602, which includes a provision that gives Illinois citizens the ability to see online who sits on state boards and commissions, and any vacancies that exist.  INBA also applauds the governor’s decision to launch the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal, to provide access to state expenditure and employee pay data.  Board and commission data can be found online at Appointments.Illinois.gov. Expenditure and employee pay data can be found online at Accountability.Illinois.gov.

The new laws take effect Jan. 1.
 

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