Don Harmon’s Idea of Reform for the Freedom of Information Act with Roll Calls

Don Harmon's press release about his bill to restrict the Freedom of Information Act says it "Addresses Concerns." Had he been forthright, the headline would read, "FOIA Concerns of Governmental Officials Addressed."


Since many, many state legislators have held local public office first, I guess people shouldn’t be surprised when they forget that they are representing people in Springfield, not cities, villages, school districts, etc.


When the Northwest Municipal League issued the pre-election ratings of local legislators, I usually was down at the bottom.

The reason is that what is good for municipalities may be very bad for people.

Local governments don’t like the new Freedom of Information law…in the worst way.

They have to provide information in a week, unless they double the time for any or no good reason.

Their judgments can be overruled by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office of Public Access Counselor.

They can’t charge for the first fifty pages of information.

They can’t bill for the time it takes employees to find and copy the information.

So, before the law has been in effect even five months, it was rollback time.

Here is sponsor State Senator Don Harmon’s statement of victory upon passage of his “reform” legislation:

Concerns voiced by public bodies from across the State regarding the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) led to the passage of House Bill 1716, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

This legislation makes several changes to the system of processing FOIA requests while still protecting the core purpose of this widely used transparency tool.

Major changes contained in House Bill 1716 include giving public bodies additional time to process FOIA requests made by “recurrent requesters”, people who have made more than 50 total requests in the last 12 months, 15 requests within a 30-day period or 7 requests in a 7-day period.

“Recurrent requestors” will receive notification within 5 business days stating that their requested information will be delivered in a reasonable amount of time.

Additional changes to the FOIA system include giving local bodies the ability to charge a $10 dollar per hour fee to satisfy commercial requests for information, exempting the first 8 hours of work. Commercial requestors are businesses that use FOIA information to further their business goals, for example, marketing purposes.

Non-profits and the media are exempted.

These changes take into account suggestions from many government bodies from across the state that have been struggling to meet requests for information in the mandated amount of time.

With these reforms, individuals and organizations seeking information can trust that their requests will be granted while ensuring that our local governments are able to fulfill the requests without undue financial burden.

It also ensures that the FOIA requests of infrequent requestors receive priority, giving everyday citizens the access to vital local government information.

Note the line, “changes take into account suggestions from many government bodies.”

What could better tell people that Don Harmon represents governments, rather than people?

This is an Oak Park liberal, folks. This is what passes for a reformer in Springfield today.

As you can see from the Senate roll call below, State Senator Pam Althoff voted in favor of the FOIA restrictions, which Dan Duffy voted, “No.”

Showing you how important this bill was to the House Speaker, he arranged for it to be called the last night of the session, so the Senate amendments could be approved by House members.
The House roll call below shows State Rep. Jack Franks on the side of openness, which State Rep. Mike Tryon voted to help shutter the Freedom of Information process.


Don Harmon’s Idea of Reform for the Freedom of Information Act with Roll Calls — 1 Comment

  1. In reading the Full Text of HB1716 on the Illinois General Assembly website, the following caught my eye.

    “In addition, a public body may charge to any requester other than a member of the news media the actual cost of retrieving and transporting public records from an off-site storage facility when the public records are maintained by a third-party storage company under contract with the public body.”

    How much does a third-party storage company charge for such a retrieval?

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