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ACTION ALERT: Stop Bad FOIA Bill

UPDATE - April 28, 2015

The deadline for bills to pass out of the House was last Friday (4/24/2015) and HB 3621 was not called for a House vote. We continue to closely monitor many bills and are prepared to act upon legislation that merits our support or opposition. And we may call on you to take action again.

Lawmaker pushes a bad law that injures the public's right to know what some cities, villages and towns are doing with tax dollars and public assets.

April 14, 2015 

HB3621 could dismember parts of Illinois’ most important disclosure law and injure the public’s right to know what some cities, villages and towns are doing with our tax dollars and public assets. It’s part of the continuing assault on Freedom of Information law in Illinois.

The bill may be heard and voted upon in the Illinois House of Representatives as early as this week. If it passes the House, we will fight it in the Senate.

Backed by Rep. Robert Rita (D-28th), the bill would exempt municipalities from revealing key financial information about contracts and events held at publicly owned venues, including convention and entertainment centers. HB3621 would throw a veil of secrecy over deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it impossible for the public to know what their civic officials are doing, or to hold them accountable.

HB3621 affects conventions, trade shows, meetings, athletic events, concerts, dramatic and cultural and social events of any size or scale that are held on public grounds such as a park, or in any public building, stadium, arena or theatre.

This is why HB3621 should be defeated:

  • Hides any public facility’s finances when its space is rented out.
  • Makes it difficult to determine whether public officials are personally profiting from public facilities.
  • Applies to facilities that were built with hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds--even if those funds continue to subsidize their operations.
  • Prevents finding out whether officials are giving sweet deals to friends or otherwise mismanaging major public assets.

UPDATE - Secrecy slam: the Chicago Tribune's editorial board comes out against state Rep. Bob Rita's bad FOIA bill on April 20, 2015.

Indeed, a 2012 Chicago Tribune examination of Toyota Park, which left taxpayers on the hook for nearly $250M, found that taxpayer-funded borrowing for the stadium "…created a torrent of cash that, in part, went to companies tied to high-level village employees, the town leaders' political supporters and even companies linked to the mayor's family." As property taxes tripled in less than a decade, "…village leaders … have gotten free use of a village executive suite — with free food and drinks — to see not only soccer games, but name acts such as Jimmy Buffett and Eric Clapton. Village officials have also used the stadium to throw themselves campaign fundraisers, including an end-of-summer blowout picnic last year in Toyota Park's parking lot."

HB3621 likely violates the constitutional guarantee of access to records related to the use and receipt of public funds. We are already fighting in court to find out how much money Rosemont has made on Allstate Arena contracts and what incentives it paid to whom.

Illinois needs more transparency into these massive, publicly funded assets, not less!

QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?

Contact: Judy Stevens, Policy Coordinator

Email: jstevens@bettergov.org

Phone: 312.821.9034

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