This Sunshine Week, members of Congress stepped up to introduce legislation to increase openness and accountability in all branches of the federal government. Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley introduced legislation to require the Supreme Court’s open proceedings to be televised. Similar legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 and 2010. Rep. Gerard Connolly introduced identical legislation (HR 94) in February.
In the House, Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley reintroduced a wide-ranging transparency package, the Transparency in Government Act of 2015 (HR 1381). Similar to the Cameras in the Courtroom Act, the bill would require the Supreme Court to televise and stream arguments on their website. The legislation would also mandate that federal agencies post all FOIA responses online, and ensure Congress implements a consistent data format for legislative information. It also would improve public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Follow the extensive legislation here.
However, the month of March wasn’t all about sunshine. Both chambers moved forward with cybersecurity bills that threaten to undermine the Freedom of Information Act. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reported the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (HR 1560) out of committee last week. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported out the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (S.754) during Sunshine Week. Both bills would create a new – 10th — mandatory exemption to FOIA for any information covered under the cybersecurity legislation. Because these bills create the new exemption through the Intelligence Committees – and not the committees with jurisdiction over the Act, they undermine the integrity of the FOIA.