Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Law Improves Access to Public Meeting Information in Illinois

WHEATON – July 19, 2012. As part of his ongoing efforts to increase government accountability and transparency, Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to strengthen the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The governor was joined at the ceremony, held in the DuPage County building council chambers, by local legislators and DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin. Governor Quinn is committed to restoring integrity to Illinois government.

“This law gives the public greater access to information and activities that impact their lives,” Governor Quinn said. “Increasing government openness and accountability from the statewide level to the local level will make Illinois a stronger, more ethical state.”

House Bill 4687, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) and Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), requires public bodies conducting a public meeting to ensure that a copy of the meeting notice and agenda is available to the public for the entire 48 hours preceding the meeting. The measure specifies that public bodies can satisfy this requirement by posting the meeting notice on the Internet. The law also ensures that meeting agendas provide the public with adequate information about the meeting’s actions.

“I applaud Governor Quinn’s ongoing commitment to achieve more openness and greater transparency in Illinois government,” Chairman Cronin said. “By bridging the information gap between government and taxpayers, we make meaningful progress in the effort to restore the trust of our residents and the integrity of state government.”

“This new law will require all entities subject to the Open Meetings Act to provide a certain level of specificity when creating their agendas,” said Rep. Pihos.

"I'm happy we were able to work together in a bipartisan way to close a loophole that didn't serve the public," Sen. Dillard said. "This measure will help the public be better informed about what their local governments are doing."

This legislation was inspired by a court case centered on an Illinois municipality that posted a meeting notice before the meeting but did so in a building that was locked on the weekends and not accessible to the public. This legislation closes that loophole by requiring online posting of meeting agendas that list meeting action items in such cases and which are continuously available. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Since taking office, Governor Quinn has made improving ethics and increasing government transparency and accountability a top priority. In 2011, the governor signed new laws that hold local governments more accountable by requiring them to provide information such as finances, contracts and non-compliances to County Boards. Governor Quinn also launched Appointments.Illinois.Gov, Accountability.Illinois.Gov and Data.Illinois.Gov to bring more transparency to state appointments, contracts and salary information and public data collected by state and federal agencies.


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