CHICAGO - A federal district court in Chicago has found that a new law that nearly triples the registration fee for organizations engaged in advocacy aimed at state legislative, executive and administrative officials is unconstitutional and entered a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law. In the order issued late on Friday, March 5, 2010, U. S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall barred the Illinois Secretary of State's Office (which oversees the Lobby Registration Act) from collecting the proposed $1000 registration fee from any individual lobbyists or organizations seeking to lobby Illinois officials.
The permanent injunction came in the case titled ACLU of Illinois v. Jesse White. The new law adopted by the General Assembly in 2009 increased the registration fee, from $350 for most lobbyists (not-for-profits paid $150) to $1000 for all lobbyists. Thus, an individual organization, including the ACLU of Illinois, would pay a minimum of $2000 each year to register the organization and a full-time lobbyist. For the ACLU, the cost of registering the organization and its two full-time lobbyists increases from $1050 in 2009 to $3000 under the new law.
In her decision, Judge Gottschall cited her earlier ruling, granting a preliminary injunction, noting that the State of Illinois simply could not justify the new dramatically increased fees. Currently, nine states and the federal government charge no fee for a lobbyist to register. Fourteen additional states charge an annual lobbyist registration fee that is no more than $150. While other states have sliding scales, Illinois' $1,000 fee per lobbyist is far out of the national mainstream. Before the court ruled, the State acknowledged that there would be only a modest increase in expenses for overseeing the registration system (from $1.22 million to 1.362 million). The ACLU of Illinois took the position that this modest cost increase necessary to oversee the system did not justify the dramatic fee increase.
"In short, this decision means that the State of Illinois cannot collect this fee - not today and not in the future,"" said Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois. "We are happy to put this chapter behind us, so that organizations such as the ACLU of Illinois now can deploy staff and other resources without having to pay up this excess fee."
The ACLU of Illinois is represented in this case by Edward Feldman, Diane Klotnia and Roger J. Perlstadtof the Chicago law firm Miller, Shakman and Beem, and by ACLU of Illinois attorneys Harvey Grossman, Adam Schwartz and Karen Sheley.