Local government transparency bill clears Illinois House
House Bill 5522 would require local governments and school districts in Illinois to maintain websites with links to vital public information such as budgets, expenditures and officials’ names and numbers.
With nearly 7,000 units of government, the most of any state in the country, Illinois can be prone to corruption. In addition to government consolidation, which would cut down on both corruption and waste in local government, promoting added transparency is one of the best safeguards against government misconduct. It also prevents government officials from leaving taxpayers in the dark.
House Bill 5522 aims to encourage both transparency and accountability in local government. The bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives April 15 on a 90-13 vote, with overwhelming bipartisan support and co-sponsorship, spearheaded by lead sponsor state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, and is now before the Illinois Senate. HB 5522 requires local governments and school districts with operating budgets of at least $1 million to maintain websites that provide access to documents about budgets, spending and operations. It also would relieve local government of the costs associated with individual record requests by having more information already readily available to taxpayers.
This bill would be a big win for taxpayers across the state. In 2013, as part of its Local Transparency Project, the Illinois Policy Institute developed a 10-point transparency checklist to grade local governments. That list includes:
- Contact information
- Public meetings
- Public information
Based on those categories, the only taxing bodies with a 100 percent rating are:
- Village of Orland Park
- Village of Lombard
- Kane County
- Hanover Township
- Village of Skokie
- City of Evanston
- Village of Wilmette
- Village of Bolingbrook
The small number of taxing bodies that have excelled in transparency underscores the need to bolster information accessibility. HB 5522 would satisfy the items on the checklist, and is a major step forward for government transparency. Another bill, House Bill 6092, which is currently sitting in the House Rules Committee, would save local governments money by allowing them to post required notices on their websites instead of in the newspaper. Illinois Policy Action supports both HB 5522 and HB 6092.