Earlier this morning we wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee supporting HR 653, the FOIA Act of 2015, expected to come up for a vote in the full House this week, even as early as tonight.
January 11, 2016
Dear Chairman Chaffetz and Ranking Member Cummings,
The media associations in the Sunshine in Government Initiative are writing to express our support for good government legislation expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). H.R. 653 constitutes the most important legislation to strengthen and secure open government in a decade.
We continue to share your commitment to making FOIA reform legislation as strong as possible. Your work through hearings and oversight brought to light important shortcomings in the administration of FOIA and clearly showed that only an act of Congress can address many of FOIA’s worse woes.
By strengthening the independence of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the legislation ensures OGIS can speak with the independent voice that Congress intended. By writing into law the presumption of openness – a starting point that many of us firmly believe already exists in FOIA – while preserving important protections for personal privacy, national security and other interests, the legislation, if enacted, would ensure agencies follow this policy in future administrations, no matter who occupies the White House. By requiring the government to create a consolidated portal to help agencies and requesters alike better track FOIA requests and responses, the legislation pushes agencies to use existing technology to make tracking FOIA requests like tracking packages when we shop online. Other provisions push the executive branch to better manage the administration of FOIA and improve accountability.
In sum, this legislation takes several important meaningful steps to address long-standing obstacles that requesters, including the media, face when using FOIA.
We applaud your bipartisan efforts on this legislation and look forward to quick enactment. We commit to working with you closely as the Senate considers similar legislation and helping ensure these important steps become law.