All of the recent sexual harassment controversies surrounding Springfield lawmakers and House Speaker Michael Madigan have come to light without the aid of a significant transparency tool: the Freedom of Information Act.
Illinois' FOIA laws had been criticized as having too many exemptions and no real recourse for a government denial of a request. They became stronger in 2010. They now include civil penalties of up to $5,000, but they're rarely applied and many other loopholes remain.
One glaring exception from these transparency laws is for the lawmakers who wrote them.
State legislators are almost entirely exempt from FOIA requests. The only bits of information the General Assembly are required to produce is often readily available. For example, staffer pay and voting records are posted online. Read more...