The ACLU of Illinois is challenging a 2009 amendment to the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act that increased registration fees from $350 to $1,000 for each person who lobbies and for each organization that employs a full-time lobbyist. The law also exempts from this fee media organizations and some religious groups. The new fee is far more than other states (save one) or the federal government charges. Our lawsuit alleges that the fee violates the First Amendment rights to speech, association, and petition, because the higher fee is more than necessary to administer the lobbying registration rules and because of the discriminatory exemptions in the law.
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In late December 2009, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order barring collection of the fee from any non-profit organization (and their employees) in Illinois. In early 2010, the court issued a preliminary injunction, holding that the $1000 fee violated the First Amendment. Shortly afterward, the court granted the ACLU’s unopposed motion to consolidate the preliminary injunction hearing with the trial on the merits, and to issue permanent injunctive and declaratory relief. The $1000 fee is permanently barred. Currently, the State is registering lobbyists without a fee. In June of 2010, the Illinois General Assembly adopted and sent the Governor a bill that creates a fee of $300 for each lobbyist and $300 for each organization. The ACLU of Illinois remained neutral on that bill. In August 2010, Judge Gottschall granted the dismissal of the claims challenging the religious and press exemptions.