Senate Approves FOIA Delays Commission, Adds Momentum to Improving FOIA

The Senate yesterday passed legislation (S. 3111) that would create a commission to study delays and other problems with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“This legislation adds momentum to get to the bottom of FOIA’s longstanding limits,” said Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government Initiative. “Too often the first advice to getting information from government is, ‘Avoid FOIA if you can.’ FOIA should help people obtain the information they seek from our government in a timely manner. While FOIA is vital to ensuring transparency when it’s inconvenient or embarrassing, using FOIA can be slow and unreliable. We hope this study will find ways FOIA can work better for agencies and the public. We applaud Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) for their longstanding efforts to make FOIA work better.”

The Congress and executive branch have recently focused on improving FOIA.

In 2007, Congress enacted amendments that created the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration to mediate FOIA disputes and recommend improvements to FOIA, improve incentives for federal agencies to avoid open records lawsuits and require agencies to track more information about their own FOIA compliance.

Congress has held several hearings in the past year to keep tabs on OGIS as it starts up and take the pulse of FOIA.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department announced it would create a FOIA Dashboard to help the public view agency FOIA performance and track improvements in agency operations.

The House of Representatives must still take up the legislation.

For more on the legislation, see Sen. Leahy’s statement and Senator Cornyn’s release.

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