Open government groups call on the Senate to pass FOIA reforms during Sunshine Week

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2016 – Today, more than 40 organizations and individuals committed to government openness and accountability sent a letter thanking Senators Grassley, Leahy and Cornyn for their authorship of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S.337), and urging the earliest possible passage of the bill.  

The FOIA Improvement Act has received overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle and from the openness community, and includes necessary measures to enable public oversight that is critical to ensuring government accountability. Importantly, the letter points out, the FOIA Improvement Act would strengthen the existing law in a number of ways, including: codifying the presumption of openness for future administrations; harnessing technology to improve the FOIA process; limiting, to a period of 25 years, the ability of agencies to keep internal deliberations confidential; and increasing the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).

The widespread call for FOIA reform comes at the start of Sunshine Week 2016 (March 14-19) -- an annual nationwide initiative to highlight the importance of open government and the imperative of strengthening transparency at all levels of government. As the letter notes, this year also marks, on July 4th, 2016, the 50th anniversary  of the enactment of the FOIA,  and emphasizes that there would be no more appropriate way for Congress to honor the upcoming 50th anniversary of the FOIA, than by passing  S. 337 to strengthen the law.

“For nearly 50 years, the FOIA has empowered the public with the access to information essential for democratic governance and accountability,” according to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of “The time to pass FOIA reform is now, to ensure that the nation can celebrate FOIA’s 50th anniversary with a stronger and better statute that enhances the public’s ability to hold officials accountable.”

Read the letter here.

Additional Resources

Summary and full text of S. 337

PRESS RELEASE: Media coalition asks every Senator to support FOIA reform ahead of 2016 Sunshine Week (Sunlight in Government Initiative)

Patrice McDermott: President should support open-government bills

Letter signed by 47 organizations supporting the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 653) and the FOIA Improvement Act (S. 337) (Feb. 5, 2015)

Letter signed by more than 70 organizations supporting the FOIA Improvement Act (Nov. 19, 2014)