State legislators claim exemption from open records laws

The Illinois Attorney General says a new report about requests for public records is meant to foster transparency in government, but one area that could be added to the report is the lack of transparency for the state’s legislative leaders.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the Public Access Bureau’s annual report detailing more than 4,700 disputes media and members of the public have had with governments allegedly not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Better Government Association’s Andy Shaw tells WMAY Springfield one area where more transparency is needed is with legislative leaders.


“You have a number of legislative leaders essentially saying they do not have to turn over data about their calendars and their activities and their emails to news media or watchdogs who ask for that because they claim immunity,” Shaw said.

Shaw says the issue will be difficult to address because it requires either court action or that lawmakers take steps permitting increased public scrutiny of their own leadership.

“FOIA compliance may have to be resolved in court because if legislative leaders believe they are immune, then the same leaders are not going to change the laws,” Shaw said.

This week is Sunshine Week, a time the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sets aside to promote government transparency.

–Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network

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