Fifty organizations representing a broad range of interests and crossing the political spectrum expressed support for the recently-introduced FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, S. 2520. The bill was introduced earlier this week by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who have a long history of working together to develop and pass legislation that makes the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a better tool for the public to obtain government records.
According to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “The strong show of support from organizations is a testament to the importance of the reforms included in the FOIA Improvement Act.”
S. 2520 addresses a number of issues identified as obstacles by members of our coalition and other groups that depend on the FOIA to better understand what the government is doing and why. Most importantly, the bill narrows the use of FOIA’s Exemption 5, which was intended, in large part, to allow agency officials the freedom to share ideas and advice off-the-record. Agencies, however, have expanded the scope of material they consider subject to Exemption 5 to the point that it covers practically anything that is not a final version of a document. S.2520 takes the common-sense steps of requiring agencies to weigh the public interest in the release of a requested document, and of making it clear that the exemption does not cover records that are more than 25 years old. The bill also codifies the current Administration’s guidance that agencies should process requests for information under the assumption that the record should be released.
S.2520 builds on reforms that were included in a FOIA reform bill introduced by House Oversight and Government Reform Chair and Ranking Member, Representative Issa and Representative Cummings and passed by the House earlier this year.
Dr. McDermott continued, “This bill is critical to help move us towards the goal of open and transparent government. We are eager to work with our champions in the House and Senate to pass a bill this year, and urge the Administration to embrace the bill.”
Download the letter here: http://www.openthegovernment.org/sites/default/files/Senate%20FOIA%20Bill%20Support%20FINAL.pdf