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Sunshine Week’s Transparency Legislation; CISA Threats Move Forward

This Sunshine Week, members of Congress stepped up to introduce legislation to increase openness and accountability in all branches of the federal government. Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley introduced legislation to require the Supreme Court’s open proceedings to be televised. Similar legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 and 2010. Rep. Gerard Connolly introduced identical legislation (HR 94) in February.

Tell Congress to #ReformFOIA

Two Freedom of Information Act reform bills are pending in Congress this Sunshine Week. Both pieces of legislation take steps to address the challenges facing the public's most important open government tool. Use the Sunlight Foundation's tool and call or Tweet your members of Congress and urge them to support FOIA reform.

FOIA Under the Microscope: Center for Effective Government, National Security Archive, and Cause of Action Release Reports

Sunshine Week is a perfect time to reflect on the current state of the Freedom of Information Act. Three coalition partners issued reports that examine FOIA’s implementation.

Supreme Court Has a Responsibility to Open Up

Describing the US Federal Courts’ approach to technology, Chief Justice John G. Roberts invoked the Supreme Court building’s engraving that illustrates the fable of the tortoise and the hare. In the 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Roberts defended the judiciary’s slow adoption of modern technology, citing funding, cybersecurity concerns, and equality of access. “Unlike commercial enterprises,” Roberts notes, “the courts cannot decide to serve only the most technically-capable or well-equipped segments of the public.” It’s a worthy but bewildering concern from a court that restricts access to its history-making arguments to approximately 50 members of public.

FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting: January 27, 2015

In December 2013, the White House committed to establish a FOIA Modernization Advisory committee in its second open government National Action Plan. The committee includes FOIA experts from inside and outside government and includes subcommittees examining proactive disclosure, FOIA fees and fee categories, and oversight. The committee holds regular public meetings. On January 27th, each subcommittee reported on its activities and future plans.

UPDATED: Failure of Speaker Boehner to Pass FOIA Reform

Statement of Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org:

We are particularly concerned that Speaker Boehner has now said that he has “no knowledge of the plan” to pass the bipartisan, bicameral FOIA reform bill. If accountability and making the federal government answer to the public is really a priority for the Republican Caucus, passing this bill should be a priority. The House passed the House companion bill 410 – 0. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent after the open government community waged an all-out war against a last second attempt by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other independent agencies that are supposed to be on the public’s side to stop the bill. It’s up to Speaker Boehner to put this bill to a vote and create the levels of open government the public needs. We call on Speaker Boehner to work with Minority Leader Pelosi to pass S.2520 by unanimous consent.

Now or (Almost) Never for FOIA Reform

The House has an opportunity to pass a meaningful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform bill today that will force federal agencies to be more accountable to the public. While we understand that the bill, S. 2520, is jostling for position on the House schedule with many other pieces of legislation, we urge Congressional leadership to not miss this window of opportunity.

OpenTheGovernment Welcomes Senate Passage of Bipartisan FOIA Reform

OpenTheGovernment.org warmly welcomes the Senate's passage of S. 2520, the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act, and thanks Chairman Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA), and Senator Cornyn (R-TX) for their tireless championship of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Statement on Senator Rockefeller's Hold on Bipartisan FOIA Bill

Statement of Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org:

We encourage Senator Rockefeller to reconsider his hold on the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act, S. 2520, and release the bill as soon as possible. The benefits of this critical reform bill far outweigh any nebulous concerns about unintended consequences, all of which can be addressed by the Senate as they pass the bill. S. 2520 was passed unanimously by the Judiciary Committee and is set to be taken up by the House as soon as it clears the Senate. It is also widely supported by a range of groups that cross the political spectrum and represent a wide range of interests. Senator Rockefeller should not remain the sole holdout that stops our ability to make the federal government more open and accountable.

The Classified Section

Check out our new blog, The Classified Section, for analysis of national security secrecy.

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