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Thursday, March 15, 2012 09:52 pm


This is Sunshine Week, an annual reminder that government should be transparent, organized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press. Why March? The observance is held the same week as the March 16 birthday of James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights.

But Illinois is hardly a land of sunshine, judging by statistics released this week by attorney general Lisa Madigan, the state’s top transparency cop who lobbied for an overhaul of the state Freedom of Information Act that took effect in 2010.

Last year, Madigan’s office handled 4,878 FOIA cases, with 2,561 of those coming from folks who were having trouble getting information from the government. In 2010, the office received 5,022 FOIA cases, with 1,744 coming from people who asked for help getting public records.

The numbers also show that Madigan rarely orders records released via binding opinions, which can be overturned only by a court. Since revisions to the law took effect two years ago, Madigan’s office, which favors advisory rulings that carry no force of law, has issued just 16 binding opinions. Five have been issued since January. The latest came this week, when the attorney general ruled that government bodies must release invoices for legal work performed at public expense. 


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