Amendments to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act for Voluminous Requests and Online Postings
HB 3796 will help ease the burden on public bodies when responding to large Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and will allow requesters to be directed to websites for information already posted online.
Originally introduced in January of 2014, House Bill 3796 (Rep. Currie/Sen. Hastings) amends FOIA by establishing a definition of a "voluminous request" and allowing a public body to respond to a voluminous request in the same manner as when responding to a recurrent requester. The bill states that a public body is not required to copy and make available for public inspection a public record that is published on the public body's website, unless the requester does not have reasonable electronic access.
The bill defines voluminous request as a request that:
(i) includes more than 5 individual requests for more than 5 different categories of records or a combination of individual requests that total requests for more than 5 different categories of records in a period of 20 business days; or (ii) requires the compilation of more than 500 letter or legal-sized pages of public records unless a single requested record exceeds 500 pages. "Single requested record" may include, but is not limited to, one report, form, e-mail, letter, memorandum, book, map, microfilm, tape, or recording. 5 ILCS 140/2(h)
Other important provisions amend the traditional response time that a public body has to respond to a voluminous request. A public body shall respond to a voluminous request within 5 days after receipt. A public body shall provide a person making a voluminous request 10 business days from the date the public body's response is sent to amend the request in such a way that the public body will no longer treat the request as voluminous. If the request continues to be voluminous or the requester fails to respond, the public body shall respond within the earlier of 5 business days after it receives the response or 5 business days after the final day for the requester to respond to the public body's notification. 5 ILCS 140/3.6(a)-(d). The requester has a right to file an appeal to the PAC if they believe the request was wrongfully classified as a voluminous request. 5 ILCS 140/9.5(b-5).
The bill also allows the public body to charge certain fees when responding to a voluminous request. When a person requests a copy of a record maintained in an electronic format, the public body shall furnish it in the electronic format specified by the requester if feasible. If the records are not in a portable document format (PDF) the public body can charge up to between $20.00 and $100.00 depending upon the megabytes of data required. If the public body imposes a fee, it must provide the requester with an accounting of all fees, costs and personnel hours in connection with the request for public records. 5 ILCS 140/6(a-5).
If the records cannot be produced in an electronic format, the public body may only charge the requester for the actual cost of purchasing the recording medium.
A public body may also charge up to $10 for each hour spent by personnel in searching for and retrieving a requested record or examining the record for necessary redactions. 5 ILCS 140/6(a).
Prior to HB 3796, if a requester asked for information that was posted online (budgets and ordinances, for example) the public body was still obligated to provide copies in order to satisfy the FOIA request. Now, for information posted online, the public body can direct the requester to the website where the records can be viewed. 5 ILCS 140/8.5(a). If the requester does not have reasonable access to the online record, then the request can be re-submitted asking for inspections or copies of the records. 5 ILCS 140/8.5(b).