Yesterday, the House passed the FOIA Improvement Act (S.337), sending the comprehensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform bill to the President’s desk. The bill will update FOIA by codifying the “presumption of openness” established in President Barack Obama’s Open Government Memorandum, subsequent Open Government Directive, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s FOIA memorandum; requiring that information be made available to the public in an electronic format; limiting, to a period of 25 years, the ability of agencies to keep internal deliberations confidential; creating a centralized online portal for FOIA requests; and increasing the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services. AALL and open government groups have advocated for these changes for nearly a decade. Passage of the bill comes just weeks before FOIA’s 50th anniversary on July 4.
AALL’s Government Relations Policy clearly expresses our view that a strong FOIA is necessary for a healthy democracy. We commend the many advocates and members of Congress who have worked tirelessly for reform, including House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.). We urge President Obama to sign S. 337 without delay.