Congress sends FOIA reform bill to the President’s desk

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2016 – Today, the House passed the FOIA Improvement Act (S.337), bringing the comprehensive FOIA reform bill one step closer to becoming law. The FOIA Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March and, in a bicameral & bipartisan effort to ensure the FOIA legislation is signed into law during this Congress, House leadership decided to vote on the Senate version, and send the bill to the White House for the President’s signature.

OpenTheGovernment.org commends the efforts on the part of Congressional leaders, staff members, and open government advocates who have been working to push the FOIA reform legislation that is critical to ensuring government accountability. The FOIA Improvement Act includes important provisions that OTG and our partners in the open government community have been working for nearly a decade to codify into law, 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 passage of the FOIA reform bill comes in the midst of a “50 Days of FOIA” campaign that OTG launched last month with a broad coalition of open government and accountability organizations and media outlets. The campaign is counting down the days to the 50th anniversary of the FOIA (on July 4, 2016) by highlight the importance of the FOIA, while promoting the passage of much needed reform legislation.  

“Greater access to government information stands out as one of the few clearly bipartisan issues in Congress today, and meaningful FOIA reform legislation now has the potential to become law by the time FOIA turns 50,” according to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. “This reform bill is the result of tremendous efforts on the part of our colleagues in the FOIA community, and, especially, our allies in Congress in charge of conducting FOIA oversight: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings; and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, and Senator John Cornyn – and their indomitable staffs. Now, it is up to the President to fulfill the promise from the White House and sign the bill into law, 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.”

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)

Submitted by jfranzblau on 06/13/2016