Senate approves FOIA restrictions

 
By Jeff Engelhardt
Updated 5/30/2011 10:25 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Suburban watchdogs could face delays when filing Freedom of Information Act requests with local governments after the Senate approved a measure that would relax response time based on the amount and complexity of requests.

Under current law, local governments must respond to FOIA requests within 10 days, but a new proposal would allow governments to respond to requests in a "reasonable" amount of time after a citizen is labeled as a "recurrent requester."

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A citizen becomes a recurrent requester after 50 requests in a year, 15 in a month or seven in a week to a local unit of government.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said he could support it if there was an exact amount of time set for local governments to respond to recurrent requesters, but "reasonable" is too vague and allows for loopholes.

"I'm sympathetic to the burden some local governments face ... but to me this is a fatal flaw," he said.

Supporters said the proposal is fair in that requests still must be answered and a citizen can have multiple counts with each individual government entity.

The measure passed the Senate 43-16 and goes to the House where it could be voted on Tuesday, which is the final scheduled session day.