On January 14th, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the key amendments to the Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act. The legislation (H.R. 1233) imposes a time limit in which a former president must assert any claim of privilege upon a determination of the Archivist to make available to the public a record of that former president and puts into place a process to manage records’ release when a claim of privilege is made (currently, claims of privilege asserted by former presidents have been left to the discretion of incoming presidents and addressed through executive orders). The legislation also takes an important step to require the preservation of records when federal employees use personal email accounts, and makes several other important changes to the Federal Records Act.
More than 20 groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org in its support for the legislation long championed by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform cited the openness community’s support in its statement on the legislation’s passage.
The bill has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.