Illinois lawmakers want to make it more difficult for you to find out what’s going on with the government you own and you pay taxes to.
They’re doing it under the guise of saving money. Saving money resonates with all of us, but that’s not the real story. This is no bargain.
House Bill 1869 would allow public bodies in Illinois to post the full text of their required notices only online. Let’s emphasize: Only online.
Also, the government entity — city, county, school district, township, etc. — needs to place the notice only on its own website.
Currently, public notice information is available in print newspaper editions and online. There’s no reason to limit it.
HB 1869 makes a simple process — placing a notice in a newspaper — complex. If a public notice is published on a website, the taxing body “must publish a notification of the website publication in a newspaper which states the website notice is available, the accurate website address of the unit of local government or school district, and a location where print versions of the item published are available.”
That makes no sense. It’s easier for a reader to see the information in one place than to jump through the hoops this bill would create.
Most people have access to a computer nowadays, but those who do not tend to be elderly, poor or people of color.
The Illinois Press Association, which represents more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers in Illinois, points out that U.S. census data and surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center show a third of Americans do not have access to the Internet; nearly half of the Hispanics and blacks in the country do not have access to the Internet; more than half of those over the age of 65 do not use the Internet; and half of all adults living with a disability do not or cannot use the Internet.
That’s why organizations such as AARP and NAACP oppose HB 1869.
Computer access is available through a public library for those who cannot afford their own, but as we have seen in Rockford and in many library districts in the state and nation, library hours have been reduced in an effort to save money. That makes it more difficult to find computer time.
If you do go online, there’s one-stop shopping at PublicNoticeIllinois.com, a public service made possible by Illinois newspapers. The information is updated daily.
The taxing bodies pay to have a presence in print, but in most cases it’s tenths of a percentage point of their budgets, well worth the price to inform the electorate.
Illinois lawmakers are fond of talking about transparency, but are more inclined to mess with your right to know. They worked to erode the Freedom of Information Act ever since the act was reformed two years ago.
Now they want to limit where you can find important meeting information.
HB 1869 is a bill that cannot die quickly enough.
Copyright 2011 Rockford Register Star. Some rights reserved.