Pols Block Sunshine

Exempt selves from records laws

Illinois legislators moving ahead on reforming the state's notoriously poor open records law have managed once again to demonstrate a total failure to understand the central tenets of democracy by exempting themselves from many of the disclosure requirements.

Legislators also watered down the original proposal into a "compromise measure" that "leaves intact some provisions most commonly abused by public officials," the Tribune reports.

The journey the bill - put forth by state attorney general Lisa Madigan - traveled showed that legislators aren't serious about transparency in Illinois government.

Media and reform groups could only be happy that the "compromise measure" restored some provisions after Democrats gutted the original bill.

The measure was then pushed through even faster than a 75-year parking meter lease presented to the Chicago City Council - without discussion or even time for most lawmakers to read it.

"Republican lawmakers blasted Democrats' decision to vote on the measure quickly, without any hearing in committee," the Tribune reports. "But they went along on a 116-0 vote in favor of the bill.

"How can we stand up and say we support the bill when we just saw it 30 minutes ago?" asked Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville).

Yours is not to wonder why, Rep. Black.

And neither is ours.

While Michael Madigan, who was behind the watered down measure, hailed its passage as a key reform in the wake of the Blagojevich impeachment, the Tribune notes that "the new measure would do little to open up new types of records to public scrutiny. There is still broad language that leaves open the door to oft-abused exemptions for requests that are 'unduly burdensome' and 'a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'

"Also intact is another often-abused exemption that allows public officials to keep secret 'preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated'."

In other words, the more things are reformed, the more they stay unreformed.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter.

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