Lawmakers add SVU-style exemption to Illinois FOIA law

Last week was pretty busy in terms of Illinois FOIA legislation. The Southern reported that Illinois lawmakers voted to prohibit the release of the names of people with firearm owner identification cards. Their concern was that gun owners would be targeted by criminals – criminals who wanted to get shot, I guess.

Right before that, the Illinois General Assembly passed and sent to the governor a bill adding a fairly interesting FOIA exemption to an already detailed list of exemptions.

From a release from assistant majority leader Jeff Schoenberg:

The bill provides “greater protection for children by exempting public disclosure of personal information of minors who are participants and registrants in park district programs,” – making rosters for these public programs exempt from disclosure along with other information including addresses and phones numbers.

“House Bill 3343 would exempt the names, addresses, and other personal information of participants and registrants in the programs of park districts, forest preserve districts, conservation districts, recreation agencies, and special recreation associations from the inspection and copying requirements of the Act.”

It seems like this is information that could be easily redacted under the existing privacy exemption, but Representative Daniel Biss, the Illinois Democrat who introduced the bill back in February, said the extra step was needed…to protect children from pedophiles who might use FOIA to pick their targets.

From the Association of Park Districts:

From Schoenberg:

“This FOIA exemption is supported by the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Association of Park Districts. Every measure we can put in place to protect children from being preyed upon by those who would do them harm is absolutely necessary.”

The Democratic Caucus of the Illinois State Senate said via twitter that it doesn’t know of any cases of this actually happening, but it’s most likely a preventative measure.

Seems kind of unnecessary  given the broad scope of the already existing privacy exemption, but everyone I ask about it seems to agree it was a good move. Then they ask me: Why would someone need that kind of information about minors?

Good question, but here’s an even better one: Why do you need an additional FOIA exemption covering information that’s already covered by a previous exemption? Even more puzzling is the support from the Illinois Press Association.

More to come.

See the full text of HB3343 and HB3500.

More on Illinois FOIA stuff at Sunshine Review here.

*Law and Order: SVU, you can thank me for this new script idea by letting me take over for Chris Meloni.

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