Illinois House approves AG-backed FOIA rewrite

By Chris Rizo | May 28, 2009

Lisa Madigan (D)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-The Illinois House on Wednesday approved a rewrite of the state's open records law that's aimed at helping the public access public documents.

The measure passed the House 116-0, with lawmakers agreeing to give the state attorney general's office broad enforcement powers of the state's Freedom of Information Act.

State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has long called for an overhaul of the state's open records law, has called on lawmakers to adopt changes to the FOIA law in the wake of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment. The Democratic governor was criticized for flouting the state's FOIA law.

The new law would allow the attorney general's office to, among other things, subpoena local governments and settle records disputes. It also creates a public access counselor under the attorney general to settle disputes between public agencies and individuals requesting records.

The measure, backed by the Illinois Press Association, now moves on to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass and be forwarded to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The bill -- proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, and the attorney general's father -- also would shorten the time a government agency has to respond to record requests.

FOIA responses will be required in five business days, rather than the current seven, with a possible extension of up to five additional business days.

It would also establish fines for violators and require government agencies to pay for attorneys fees on both sides when they lose in court. State legislators would be exempt from most of the enforcement provisions.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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