Last Minute Rush To Change Freedom Of Information Act

Dec 1, 2014

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

Groups such as the Better Government Association, the Illinois Press Association (a representative there called the measure the most egregious changes to FOIA since the law was restructured) and the Attorney General's office are fighting it. 

Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, says it will make it incredibly more difficult to obtain public information that taxpayers are owed. 

"It would severely hamper efforts to increase transparency in Illinois, which is an ongoing priority for our office and for many folks in Illinois. As we all know, more transparency is desperately needed in state government," Bauer said.

The motive behind the proposed change is unknown. It's sponsor, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, did not return a call seeking information; Currie is a chief lieutenant of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The move comes after the House in mid-November overrode a veto by Governor Pat Quinn of another measure, HB 3796, affecting FOIA. If the Senate does the same, it will become law.  That plan gives governments more time to get members of the public certain information, and allows them to charge fees up to one hundred dollars.