Illinois has a ripe opportunity and obligation to open up government after six years of secrecy and abuses of open records' laws, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday.

Illinois has a ripe opportunity and obligation to open up government after six years of secrecy and abuses of open records' laws, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Wednesday.

Madigan laid out general ideas for reform in several areas to the Joint Committee on Government Reform. Her office is working on more specific proposals to improve laws on open records and ethics.

Madigan said the administration under ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich imposed a "culture of secrecy" that allowed the impeached governor to abuse his power and break the law. She pointed to several examples where the administration denied turning over records that clearly should be open under existing law.

Madigan hopes to push in coming weeks a rewrite of the state's Freedom of Information Act to require training on the laws for government workers in charge of releasing information and put penalties in place for violators that have real teeth.

"It is obviously very difficult to comply when you don't know what the law is," Madigan said.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, questioned why these proposals didn't surface sooner.
      
"We might not have suffered some of the problems that we did," Radogno said.

Madigan said those proposals would not have been approved by Blagojevich.

She also suggested changes to ethics laws to provide more disclosure about investigations and punishments of state workers accused of wrongdoing. Now, much of that work is done behind closed doors, but Madigan says more should be done to expose law-breakers.

State Capitol Bureau