House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Marks Up Sunshine Week Legislation – Video Available

Starting at 10 am on Tuesday, March 20, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee marked up a number of bills that would help make the federal government more open and accountable. Watch a recorded version of the webcast HERE and Read More for our take on some of the bills.

Here is a quick look at a few of the bills of particular interest to OpenTheGovernment.org and our partners:

H.R. 1104, Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2013 [PDF] – This bill is particularly notable for closing a gaping loophole in the current FACA law by clarifying that FACA applies to subcommittees as well as committees. The bill also requires FACA appointees to fully comply with all conflict of interest rules and federal ethics laws.

H.R. 1211, FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2013 [PDF] – This bill, which was recently introduced by Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings, makes a number of good changes to the Freedom of Information Act to improve the way the government implements the law and requester's experience. Notably, the bill gives more responsibility and independence to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and includes a vote of support for FOIAonline, the shared service website currently managed by the EPA.

Equally notable, however, is what the bill does not do. As our friends over at CREW have pointed out, the bill fails to address the substance of any of the FOIA's exemptions. We would also prefer to see a bill that took more aggressive steps toward encouraging the government to make information available before anyone must file a FOIA request.

H.R. 1233, Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2013 [PDF] – This bill would increase public access to presidential records by establishing procedures for the consideration of claims of constitutionally based privilege against disclosure of Presidential Records. In the absence of legislation like H.R. HR 1233, the process for dealing with claims of privilege by a former president has been left to the discretion of each incoming president through the issuance of executive orders. Those orders have varied widely, and have had an impact on the public’s access to presidential records.

H.R. 1234, the Electronic Message Preservation Act [PDF] – This bill directs the Archivist to establish standards for the capture, management, and preservation of White House and of agencies' e-mails, and certification standards for any electronic records management systems implemented at agencies.

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