I am writing today to alert you to a problematic bill, HB 3796, that was only introduced last Friday afternoon, passed the House on Memorial Day, and will pass the Senate TODAY to the Senate sponsors, who expect a unanimous vote. I am providing detailed information below. It is urgent that you CALL YOUR SENATOR IN SPRINGFIELD TODAY to tell them you oppose HB3796 as this bill severely curbs the ability of the public to monitor government activity. Need to know who your Senator is? Click here.
HB 3796 adds provisions to the Freedom of Information Act to create a category of requests called "Voluminous Requests." This is in addition to the other provisions in the FOIA that enable public bodies to negotiate FOIA requests, which are the recurrent requester provision and the unduly burdensome provision.
The voluminous request provisions:
It is important to note that the FOIA is "Intent-Neutral"--the reason that the requester wants public records is not a consideration that the public body should make in complying with the request. A document evidencing government business is presumed to be public-- or it may through clear and convincing evidence be withheld through an exception, or an exemption outside the FOIA statute may exist. These are the only considerations that a public body may take in responding to a FOIA request.
It should be noted that the unduly burdensome provision is a workable provision--it requires the public body to ask the requester to narrow the request to manageable proportions.
This bill is partly in reaction to those FOIA requesters who avoided the label of "recurrent requester" by putting their FOIA requests in one letter or email to the public body--an unintended consequence of the recurrent requester provision. If you remember, a recurrent requester submits 7 FOIA requests in 7 days, 15 FOIA requests in 30 days, or 50 FOIA requests in 365 days. At the very least, the recurrent requester provision should be removed from the FOIA, if the voluminous request provisions pass and get signed into law.
While non-profits, scientific, or academic organizations, and the media are exempt from the voluminous request provisions, this bill severely curbs the ability of the public to monitor government activity.
Executive Director/Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center