Illinois residents soon will be able to make better decisions about whether to attend meetings held by public bodies thanks to new legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday in Wheaton.
The new law requires public bodies conducting public meetings to ensure a copy of the meeting notice and agenda is available to the public at least 48 hours in advance, including a posting on the agency's website. The law also requires agendas provide adequate information about action expected to be taken at the meeting.
"In order for government of the people to work, especially in the 21st century, we've got to have electronic democracy," Quinn said. "We've got to make sure the websites of our units of government are available to the people with as much information as possible."
The legislation to strengthen the Illinois Open Meetings Act goes into effect Jan. 1. The law was pushed by two DuPage County Republicans, state Rep. Sandy Pihos of Glen Ellyn and state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
The legislation was inspired by a court case involving a downstate municipality that posted a meeting notice but did so in a building that was locked on the weekends and not accessible to the public. Quinn said the legislation will close that loophole by requiring online posting of meeting agendas that list action items and are continuously available.
"What we want to do with the legislation is make sure we have information flowing to the people who pay the taxes. They're the heart and soul of our government," Quinn said. "We believe in democracy and 21st-century democracy requires that we always pay attention to how to take things like information about a meeting and make sure it's 21st-century ready."
Several DuPage County mayors who attended the bill-signing said they support the measure, especially since many already post the required information on their municipal websites.
"I feel this should have been required several years back, as soon as technology allowed for it. That's how long we've been doing it," said Bloomingdale Mayor Bob Iden. "But this is really targeted at some communities that may not be as technology-oriented as we are in DuPage County."
Lisle Mayor Joe Broda agreed.
"We've got no problems here. We post everything," he said. "We've got no secrets in Lisle."
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said he believes the measure is a step toward "restoring our reputation and regaining the trust and confidence of the voters and residents."