Legislation in the 110th Congress

Click on the bill name for more information, including status, sponsors, and co-sponsors.

Public Law 110-175: OPEN Government Act of 2007

Signed into law on December 31, 2007.

*prohibits agencies that fail to respond to requests within the required 20 day time frame from collecting fees;
*requires agencies to establish a system allowing requesters to track progress by phone;
*requires agencies to clearly state the amount of information withheld and redacted;
*requires agencies to pay court fees if the agency agrees to provide the information after a requester has had to file a suit;
*expands the definition of “news media” for the purpose of waiving fees;
*expands the scope og organizations subject to FOIA to include contractors that hold government records;
*expands the amount of information agencies must report about their FOIA process; and
*creates the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration. OGIS is charged with mediation of FOIA disputes and reviews of agency compliance with FOIA, it will also house a FOIA ombudsman.

HR 4806, Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2008

Passed by the House on July 30, 2008.

Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer policies, procedures, and programs (policies) within the Department of Homeland Security to prevent over-classification. Directs the Secretary to:
*create standard classified and unclassified formats for finished DHS intelligence products, and require the simultaneous production of unclassified versions of all classified products;
*establish an ongoing auditing mechanism that randomly selects classified information from each DHS component to assess whether applicable classification regulations have been followed, describe any problems with their administration, and recommend improvements in awareness and training to address the problems in annual reports;

*establish a process whereby employees may challenge original classification decisions and be rewarded for successful challenges resulting in the removal or downgrading of classification markings;
*assess technologies for tracking classification decisisions; and
*require annual training in conjunction with any other security, intelligence, or other training programs required by DHS for each DHS employee and contractor with classification authority;


H.R. 6193: Improving Public Access to Documents Act of 2008

Passed by the House on July 30, 2008.

Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer policies, procedures, and programs within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a controlled unclassified information framework .Requires the Secretary to:
*institute a series of penalties for employees and contractors who fail to comply with policies, procedures, and programs;
*make available to the public, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, all controlled unclassified information and other unclassified information;
*assess the technologies by which an designation decisions can be tracked; and
*require annual training for each DHS employee or contractor with such designation authority.

H.R. 6575: Over-Classification Reduction Act

Requires the Archivist of the United States to develop policies to prevent over-classification to be implemented by agency heads to:
*establish a process whereby employees, without retribution, may challenge original classification decisions and be rewarded for successful challenges resulting in the removal or downgrading of classification markings;
*inform employees and contractors that failure to comply could subject them to a series of penalties, and institute such penalties;

*establish a system for tracing classification decision; and
*require annual training in conjunction with any other security, intelligence, or other training programs required by DHS for each DHS employee and contractor with classification authority;
Also requires each federal agency’s Inspector General to randomly audit unclassified information with such a designation.

H.R. 6576: Reducing Information Control Designations Act

Passed by the House on July 30, 2008.

Requires each federal agency to reduce and minimize its use of information control designations on information that is not classified and specifies that such designations are not a determinant of public disclosure pursuant to FOIA.
Requires the Archivist of the United States to promulgate regulations regarding the use of such designations, including:
*standards that maximize public access to information;
*limiting the number of agency employees and contractors with authority to utilize such designations;
*procedures for identifying, marking, dating, and tracking information assigned to the designations; and
*penalties for employees and contractors who repeatedly fail to comply.
Directs the Archivist to:
*require training for federal agency employees or contractors who are responsible for analyzing, disseminating, preparing, producing, receiving, publishing, or otherwise communicating information with a designation.
Also requires each federal agency’s Inspector General to randomly audit unclassified information with such a designation.

H.R. 985: Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 / S. 274: Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act

Passed by the House on March 14, 2007; passed by the Senate on December 17, 2007.

Expands the types of whistleblower disclosures protected from personnel reprisals to include disclosures without restriction as to time, place, form, motive, context, forum, or prior disclosures.
*neutralize the government’s use of the “state secrets” privilege by resolving the issue in favor of the plaintiff where use of the privilege would prevent the plaintiff from making the case and an IG investigation provides independent support, and by requiring the government to describe to Congress the reasons for the assertion, explaining why the court hearing the matter does not have the ability to maintain the protection of classified information related to the assertion;
*bars the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) from ruling for an agency before whistleblowers have the opportunity to present evidence of retaliation; and
*removes the Federal Circuit’s monopoly on precedent-setting cases.
The House bill additionally contains provisions to:
*grant employees the right to due process, including a jury trial in federal court;
*extends meaningful protections to Transportation Security Officers (screeners), federal contractors, and FBI and intelligence agency whistleblowers; and
*protects federal scientists who report efforts to alter, misrepresent, or suppress federal research;

S. 223: Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act

Require Senate candidates to file election-related designations, statements, and reports in electronic form, helping to ensure the public has access to information about donations to candidates before the election.

S. 3077: Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008

Requires the chief executive officer of an award recipient to certify whether the entity has:
*filed all federal tax returns required during the preceding five years;

*been convicted of a criminal offense under the Internal Revenue Code; and
*an outstanding debt under the Code for which a notice of lien has been publicly filed that is not being paid in a timely manner, or for which a collection due process hearing or relief is requested or pending.
Requires the Director to:
*develop certification forms;
*ensure that each agency providing federal awards complies with tax compliance requirements; and
*ensure that the website contains such certified information.

S. 2746: OPEN FOIA Act of 2008

Amends the Freedom of Information Act to require statutory exemptions to its disclosure requirements to specifically cite its provision that authorizes such exemptions, making it easier for Congressional staff, advocates and the public to find exemptions that have been tucked into large bills.

S. 3276, Open and Transparent Smithsonian Act of 2008

Promotes accountability and transparency at the Smithsonian Institution by applying provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to the Smithsonian.

S. 2533: State Secrets Protection Act/ H.R. 5607: State Secret Protection Act of 2008

Provides guidance to the Federal courts in handling assertions of the state secret privilege in civil cases, and would restores checks and balances by placing constraints on the application of state secrets doctrine.
Specifically:
*enables the executive branch to avoid publicly revealing evidence if doing so might disclose a state secret (if a court finds that an item of evidence contains a state secret, or cannot be effectively separated from other evidence that contains a state secret, then the evidence would be privileged and may not be released for any reason); and
*prevents the executive branch from using the privilege to deny parties their day in court or shield illegal activity that is not actually sensitive.
The Senate bill also permits the courts to order an unclassified version of documents, where possible.

H.R. 5811: Electronic Message Preservation Act

Passed by the House on July 9, 2008.

*Requires the Archivist of the United States to promulgate regulations governing agency preservation of electronic communication and to ensure that agencies are complying with such regulations; and
*Requires the Archivist of the United States to promulgate regulations concerning standards necessary for the preservation of Presidential records, certify the President’s records management system meets these standards, and report to selected Congressional Committees about this certification.


H.R. 1255/ S. 886: Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007

Passed by the House on March 14, 2007.

Re-establishes procedures to ensure the timely release of presidential records that the Presidential Records Act of 1978 was designed to ensure.
Specifically,:
*establishes a deadline for the review of records;
*limits the authority of former presidents to withhold records;
*requires the president to make privilege claims personally; and
*eliminates the ability for Vice Presidents to assert executive privilege claims over vice presidential records.

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