Today, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (S.337), to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act by codifying the presumption in favor of disclosure (often referred to as the presumption of openness) outlined in President Obama’s Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act; harnessing technology to improve the FOIA process, including requiring the creation of a consolidated online request portal; ending secrecy for 25-year-old drafts and other internal deliberations not otherwise exempt from disclosure; and increasing the independence of the Office of Government Information Services. The House passed its own FOIA improvement bill, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 653), in January 2016.
AALL commends Congress for recognizing the importance of a strong FOIA law. It is especially meaningful that the Senate took this step during Sunshine Week 2016 (March 13-19), a nationwide initiative to highlight the importance of open government, and just months before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA on July 4th, 2016. We encourage the House and Senate to join together to work out the differences and send the FOIA reform bill to the President’s desk.