HB1716, SA1—the FOIA rollback bill—creates a new category of FOIA requester: the “recurrent requester,” referred to as a “vexatious requester” in earlier versions of the legislation.
If this legislation passes, a citizen who makes more than 50 FOIA requests in one year, 15 in thirty days, or 7 in seven days, can be labeled a recurrent requester, and would have no designated timeline for receiving their requester documents.
The BGA relies heavily on these requesters—we call them “citizen watchdogs”—to provide us with information about what is going on in their communities. The tips we generate from our citizen watchdogs fuel our investigations and reform efforts.
Our ability to expose fraud, waste and abuse and propose and advocate solutions will be significantly hampered if this legislation were to pass.
>> CLICK HERE to find your State Senator and Representative. Call the Springfield offices and tell them to VOTE NO on HB1716 — the FOIA rollback bill.
MORE ON “THE FOIA ROLLBACK BILL”
HB1716 SA1 limits the ability of average citizens to access public information and punishes the lay FOIA requester.
- HB1716 SA1 creates a new category of FOIA requesters—the “recurrent requester”, referred to as a “vexatious requester” in earlier versions of the legislation.
- HB1716 SA1 calls a citizen a “recurrent requester” under FOIA if they request more than 50 in one year, 15 in thirty days, or 7 in seven days. Requesters may not know, however, that under the bill they can bypass this label by lumping requests for multiple documents into one request letter.
HB1716 SA1 is vague and ambiguous, and its application will be inconsistent.
- Under HB1716 SA1, public bodies have to respond to recurrent requesters within a “reasonable period”, which can only be determined after the fact by the Public Access Counselor.
- Commercial requesters can be charged the “actual cost” of retrieval and transport of public documents by a public body. “Actual cost” is a term that is inadequately defined, and no appeals process exists outside of the courts for commercial requesters who have been inappropriately charged.
- Because some FOIA requesters may lump multiple documents into one request letter, and others may separate each document into a different request, requesters seeking identical pieces of information can be labeled and treated differently under the law.
HB1716 SA1 removes oversight from the FOIA process for commercial requesters.
- Under HB1716 SA1, commercial FOIA requests are removed from the purview of the Public Access Counselor—a move that forces commercial requesters wrongfully denied access to public information by public bodies into the court system if they wish to appeal their denial.