Legislation in the 111th Congress

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

H.R. 35, the Presidential Records Amendments Act

Passed by the House on January 7, 2009.

*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.

H.R. 36, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act

Passed by the House on January 7, 2009.

*requires organizations fundraising for Presidential libraries to disclose their donations while the president is in office and during the period before the federal government has taken possession of the library.

H.R. 553, the Reducing Overclassification Act

Passed by the House on February 3, 2009.

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. 854 [Overclassification Reduction Act]

Introduced in the House on February 4, 2009.

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. 984 / S. 417 [State Secrets Protection Act]

Introduced in the House and the Senate on February 11, 2009.

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.

S. 482 [Senate E-Filing Bill]

Introduced in the House and the Senate on February 27, 2009.

Requires 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. 537, the Sunshine in Litigation Act

Introduced in the Senate on March 5, 2009.

Requires federal judges, prior to making any portion of a case confidential or sealed, determine that doing so would not restrict the disclosure of information relevant to public health and safety.

S. 574 / H.R. 946 Plain Writing Act of 2009

Introduced in the Senate on March 11, 2009 and he House on February 10.

Requires each agency to use plain language in any covered document of the agency issued or substantially revised. Also requires the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance on implementation to agencies and agency heads to report to Congress on certain aspects of implementation.

H.R. 1323: Reducing Information Control Designations Act

Passed by the House on March 17, 2009.

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.

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