Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’


FOI Daily Dose: Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling; National Press Club debates practices of public affairs offices

Illinois attorney clarifies public records ruling

An Illinois attorney clarified a public records ruling issued July 16 by the Fourth District Appellate Court, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The ruling said emails and text messages sent during public meetings about public business are public records.

But Peter Friedman, a Lake Bluff village attorney and a partner at Holland & Knight, clarified that the ruling does not apply to any electronic communications not pertaining to public business or those sent outside of board meetings.

“The appellate court correctly determined that private electronic communications outside the context of a board meeting are not public records under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act),” Friedman told the Tribune.

 National Press Club debating practices of federal public affairs offices

The National Press Club in Washington, DC,  is hosting a panel on Aug. 12 to debate whether federal public affairs practices are more of a hindrance or a help to reporters.

Public affairs offices typically require reporters to go through the press office to arrange interviews.

Those skeptical of the process complain that it limits who they interview. They are also frustrated that some companies require members of the communications team to be present with employees during their interview, according to the Press Club.

Other people feel public affairs professionals ensure that the press gets accurate information and a coherent message.

The debate will feature a panel of experts on both sides of the issue. The panel will be moderated by John M. Donnelly, chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee and a senior writer with CQ Roll Call.

Panel experts include:

  • Linda Petersen: Managing editor, The Valley Journals of Salt Lake; chairwoman SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee; and president of the Utah Foundation for Open Government
  • Carolyn Carlson: Former AP reporter; past SPJ national president; assistant professor of communication at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta; and author of two surveys on the relationship between public affairs staff and the press
  • John Verrico: President-elect of the National Association of Government Communicators
  • Kathryn Foxhall: Freelance reporter who has extensively researched the issue

FOI Fail of the Week: Ill. bill that would hurt frequent FOIA requesters one signature away from law

The Illinois legislature approved a bill that, if signed into law by the governor, would hurt the ability of frequent FOI requesters to get prompt responses from the government.

According to House Bill 1716, people who make more than seven requests in a week, 15 in 30 days or 50 per year to the same public body would be considered “recurrent requesters.” Their requests could take up to 21 days for a response under the new rules if the bill becomes law.

The bill also includes provisions for the addition of fees to commercial information requests that will take more than eight hours to complete, according to the State-Journal-Register.

The bill doesn’t apply to members of the news media.

Although journalists are safe from its implications, the bill encroaches upon the right of citizens to request information from their government as often as they want without facing additional obstacles to obtaining that data beyond those legally permitted by disclosure exemptions.

While the legislature may have passed this bill, there’s still a chance Gov. Pat Quinn could veto it and protect the citizens from its proposed restrictions. He received the measure on June 29.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: DATA Act ready for next step, Illinois launches data site

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 to go to House floor

After getting approval from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday, the DATA Act’s next step is to go to the House floor.

The bill would create a Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board with authority over federal spending. The board would assume control over USAspending.gov from the Office of Management and Budget.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who introduced the DATA Act, is also involved with President Obama’s June 13 executive order that established a Government Accountability and Transparency Board headed by Vice President Joe Biden.

The bill, if passed, has an expiration date. All provisions will expire in seven years unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The DATA Act would also repeal the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which created USASpending.gov. It would overhaul the FFATA system, which depends on agencies to report spending information, and would instead get spending reports from federal fund recipients.

Check out this OMB Watch blog post that analyzes the potential effects of the bill.

Illinois launches government data clearinghouse website

The State of Illinois launched a website Tuesday that compiles searchable information from state departments and aims to give citizens a clearer picture of government operations.

The  State of Illinois Open Data website will also encourage people to use state government information. The creation of mobile device applications that could use the data is one potential method for taking the information the website is providing and putting it to good use.

The Illinois Innovation Council, which focuses on promoting innovative economic initiatives, is responsible for the website.

While the ultimate goal is for the website to eventually become a clearinghouse for information from all Illinois agencies, for now it includes data from only a few departments.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

SPJ FOI Update: Chicago Headline Club releases access survey results

SPJ’s chapter in Chicago, the Headline Club, conducted a survey in early 2011 that shows it can be tough for journalists in the Chicago area to get the public records access they need.

Funded with a $40,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation, the information access study asked local reporters about information request response times. The chapter announced the results Wednesday. The University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory conducted the Web-based survey in February and March 2011.

According to the study, 51.6 percent of information requests to the federal government took more than 20 days for a response.

The study also found that 66.3 percent of requests to the State of Illinois, 72.5 percent of requests in Cook County, and 66.7 percent of requests for the City of Chicago took more than five days for a response.

The 61-page report is available on the Chicago Headline Club’s website.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: Thomas Drake and FOI rules for Ill. gun owners

If you missed it, check out the May 22 episode of “60 Minutes,” which includes whistleblower Thomas Drake’s first-ever television interview.

Drake was indicted in April 2010 under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his actions when providing information to a Baltimore Sun reporter in 2007. The journalist later wrote a series on financial waste and other problematic practices in the National Security Agency, where Drake worked.

Drake will appear in court June 13 and faces up to 35 years in prison.

In Illinois, the legislature took another step toward shielding gun owners from certain records requests today when the Senate passed House Bill 3500 in a 42-1 vote. The bill, which passed the Illinois House in April, would amend the state Freedom of Information Act to protect the personal information of people who have received or applied for a Firearm Owners Identification Card, unless the records are part of a criminal investigation.

The bill now goes to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI Links: U.K. doctors paid to keep mouths shut

FOIA Links: Airline catering violations and Illinois law

After a brief hiatus, we’re back to provide  you with more FOIA goodness.

Happy start-to-the-week!

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