Lisa Madigan (D)
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-The Illinois attorney general's office is still in the process of rewriting the state Freedom of Information Act, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sought to overhaul the law since she was elected as the state's chief legal officer in 2002.
Her cries for reform became louder in the wake of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment. The Democratic governor was criticized for not complying with the law.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, Robyn Zeigler, told Legal Newsline the rewrite is nearing completion. The move is aimed at improving public access to government records.
"The rewrite is still in process," she said in an e-mail. "It is in final stages though, and we have provided a draft to interest groups for some additional feedback prior to finalizing it."
Cindi Canary, executive director of the nonpartisan Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the state's FOIA law is riddled with loopholes that keep information out of the hands of citizens, noting that the current law has nearly 60 separate exemptions.
"This is long overdue," Canary said of the FOIA law rewrite. "What the AG is doing will significantly streamline the (FOIA) process and begin to shift the logic behind the law," which is to get information into the hands of the public rather than keep it under wraps.
Canary said her government watchdog organization was one of many interest groups that Madigan reached out to for suggestions to the rewrite.
In addition to overhauling the state's public records law, Madigan is championing legislation that would create a position in state government for a public access counselor who would referee disputes over access to public documents.
The proposal -- outlined in House Bill 1370 -- would allow the public to appeal a denied FOIA request to the office.
Speaking to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Government Reform in February, Madigan said open government reforms in Illinois are long overdue.
"I'm very hopeful it will get done this session," Madigan said. "I certainly think the climate is such that we have a unique opportunity to put some real changes in place for our sunshine laws."
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.