State lawmakers on Thursday advanced two measures that would fire about 750 state employees and appointees and revise the state's Freedom of Information Act. Senators advanced Senate Bill 1333, the firings measure, out of a committee and sent Senate Bill 189, the FOIA bill, to the House.
State lawmakers on Thursday advanced two measures that would fire about 750 state employees and appointees and revise the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Senators advanced Senate Bill 1333, the firings measure, out of a committee and sent Senate Bill 189, the FOIA bill, to the House.
Senate Bill 1333 would fire about 750 people in jobs exempt from bans on political hiring who were brought in under the administrations of Gov. George Ryan and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, said he was concerned the bill would unfairly paint some state employees as corrupt and placed the blame on House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who originally came up with the idea.
"This is a flexing muscle of the most powerful man in America, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan," said Hendon, D-Chicago. "It does put a stain on these hard-working people and it's wrong."
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, disagreed.
"By sponsoring this bill, I am not in any way implying that any of the people who are affected have done anything wrong," he said. "To me, it gives them an opportunity to be reappointed by Gov. (Pat) Quinn."
Senate Bill 189, approved by the Senate 58-1 Thursday night, would rewrite the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the measure is a "significant step forward to creating great accessibility to records and great transparency so the public can have confidence in its government."
Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has been working for weeks on a rewrite of the Freedom of Information Act that would give the law more teeth.
Supporters of the rewrite, such as the Illinois Press Association, were disappointed when House Democrats presented a watered-down version of the FOIA revision last week. Senate Bill 189 is a compromise between the two FOIA drafts, advocates said.
One major concession was that misdemeanor criminal penalties for agencies that commit FOIA violations were dropped from the bill in its current form. The measure, however, does increase fines, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, for FOIA violations.
Some of the rewrite provisions involve decreasing the amount of time government agencies have to respond to a FOIA request from seven to five days and creating a public access counselor to referee FOIA disputes. The revision would also require requesters who win court battles to be entitled to attorneys' fees.
The lone 'no' vote, Republican Sen. Gary Dahl of Granville, said the FOIA revision would put too much of a burden on local governments.
Eric Naing can be reached at email@example.com.