Illinois rolls back transparency for frequent FOIA users

Illinois signed a new law on Friday that will make the state legislature less responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Under the new law, individuals or organizations that make multiple FOIA requests in the same month can now expect a longer wait before those requests are addressed and may incur fees to have the request answered at all.

Under the terms of the new law, individuals and organizations that file multiple FOIA requests per month will now be known as, “recurrent requesters.” Once an individual or organization receives this label, government agencies now have 21 days to respond to the request and an as yet undefined, “reasonable period” to provide the information. Agencies will also be allowed to charge for the administrative costs associated with providing the information. The new law goes into effect immediately.

Government agencies can apply the recurrent requester label to any individual or organization that makes more than 7 FOIA requests in a given week or more than 15 per month.

Before the new law, government agencies had to respond to requests within 7-14 days and did not charge for requested information. More than just a change in statute, the law also marks a change in Governor Quinn’s overall position on transparency. Since 2009, the Governor has said that increasing government transparency is a top priority.