Greising: FOIA Access Was Protected During a Hectic General Assembly Session. That’s a Good Thing During This Pandemic.

This year, perhaps the worst bad idea was a proposal to suspend the Freedom of Information Act and block access to public records during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

Illinois State Capitol buildiing (JFerrer/iStock)

BGA President David Greising writes every other week for the Chicago Tribune Opinion section.

In an action-packed mini-session last week, the Illinois General Assembly passed a $40 billion budget, changed last year’s gambling law to make a Chicago casino feasible and granted Gov. J.B. Pritzker unusual discretion in moving funding among state agencies.

And it all happened in about four days.

If that sounds breathtakingly brief, well, not so much. The 2020 legislative session was unusually short, but its last-minute rush of lawmaking was an extreme version of the half-blind, end-of-session rush that is commonplace in Illinois. That fix for the Chicago casino? It was needed because the bill last year was passed in such a hurry that the legislature made a mess of it.

With billions on the line, and appallingly little deliberation before the public, the Springfield legislature each May rushes bills past the public and, presto-change-o, there’s a new budget — a $40 billion undertaking this year.

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