Law makes it impossible for the public to analyze how many times the board approved or denied concealed carry licenses, on what grounds, and if it did so fairly or not.
By Brian Costin -
Unfortunately, OMA and FOIA often come under attack by the Illinois General Assembly. The most recent assault is in the concealed carry bill that recently passed the House and Senate, and awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.
According to the proposed bill, when local law enforcement objects to a concealed carry application, the applicant can appeal to the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board. However, a legislative loophole makes the board completely exempt from OMA and FOIA.
According to the State Journal-Register:
“A seven-member licensing review board will have final say, but an appeal process will be available for applicants who disagree with the board’s decision. The board will be exempt from the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.”
The Illinois Press Association came out in opposition of the bill Friday evening, noting that the group disagrees with the provision that exempts the review board from both acts.
“The creation of a secret governmental unit that can meet without any public notice at all, is simply not consistent with the public policy of Illinois,” said Dennis DeRossett, the association’s executive director, in a news release. “HB 183 provides that all records of the Board are secret, all votes are secret and the Board need not even give public notice of when or where it is meeting. … Secret government is simply never a good idea.”
This means the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board could legally meet at any time and at any location, without notice, without a public agenda and without meeting minutes ever drafted or published.
With OMA and FOIA exemptions, it would be impossible for the public and the media to analyze how many times the board approved or denied concealed carry licenses, on what grounds and if it did so fairly or not.
Senate Amendment 5 on House Bill 183, containing the OMA and FOIA revisions, was introduced and passed on the same day – May 31, the last day of the recent spring legislative session. Due to the rushed nature of the vote, most legislators probably didn’t have full knowledge of the consequences of the revised bill for open government.
The purpose of OMA is to ensure the public’s right to observe and participate in the public policy-making process of government. FOIA’s purpose is to ensure public access to government activity and records. It would set a horrible precedent for any state review board to be completely exempt from these provisions.