House passes FOIA reforms; bill sent to President for signature

From The NAA For more than two years, NAA and its media and journalism partners in the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) have been working with a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators to enact meaningful reforms to strengthen the operation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) before the original law turns 50 years old on July 4, 2016.

On June 13, the House of Representatives unanimously approved the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 337), which was passed by the Senate in mid-March. The legislation requires federal agencies to presumptively disclose information in response to a FOIA request unless Congress has recognized an interest that justifies withholding or if foreseeable harm would result from that disclosure. The legislation also strengthens the Office of Government Information Services, empowering the “FOIA Ombudsman” to be an independent voice for openness, to mediate disputes between agencies and requesters, and to report to Congress – not the Department of Justice – on how agencies are performing under the new FOIA law.

In a statementon the passage of S. 337, the Sunshine in Government Initiative expressed its gratitude to the champions of FOIA reform in the House: Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA.) and in the Senate: Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA.), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Cornyn (R-TX). These leaders worked extremely hard to write and then build support for a bipartisan bill that will help make our government more transparent and accountable to the public. The President is expected to sign the bill into law.