HSLI Newsletter

Serving Illinois Health Information Professionals

Update on Illinois HB3796

I am happy to report that Governor’s Quinn veto of House Bill 3796, which amends the Freedom of Information Act, has been overridden. This past Wednesday, November 19, the Illinois House of Representatives voted 76-36 in favor of overriding the veto. The legislation now goes to the Illinois Senate, in which a three-fifths majority is required for a veto override.

The legislation, which is sponsored by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Curie (Democrat-25th¬†District, Chicago), amends the Freedom of Information Act by allowing public bodies to charge a fee for information requests that could be considered “voluminous”. The impetus behind trying to limit such requests is that frequent or excessively-large requests sometimes border on harassment. Government bodies have flexibility in determining what counts as “voluminous”, however, and FOIA regulations still ensure that information be distributed as quickly and cheaply as possible. Also, groups that need quick access to information-in particular, the news media, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations-are exempted. The reasoning behind Governor Quinn’s veto was that the legislation would limit transparency by hindering access to government records. Library advocates, including the Illinois Library Association, however, believe that the legislation maintains a balance between transparency and government efficiency.

The legislation also amends the FOIA by encouraging, but not requiring, the posting online of government documents that have been subject to an FOIA request. Also, if an individual does request a document that is already available online, the appropriate government entity can merely refer the individual to the link for the document, instead of actually providing another copy. This part of the legislation, since it clearly promotes transparency at the same time that it ensures efficiency, has not been particularly controversial.

The Illinois Senate will likely take action on HB3796 during the second part of the veto session, which will be held from December 2 to 4. If you have an opportunity, please contact your Illinois Senator before then. Also, to track the legislation’s progress, go¬†here.

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