Archive for June, 2016

FOIA reform…next stop, President Obama’s desk

Hurray! The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Senate’s Freedom of Information Act reform bill yesterday, sending the bill to President Obama.

A day later, the Society of Professional Journalists and other news media organizations are still celebrating this important step taken by Congress.

Improving and strengthening the FOIA had been the focus of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a group of nine journalism and free-information groups, including SPJ.

We all are strongly urging the president to sign these bipartisan reforms as we approach the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the original FOIA law on July 4, 1966. All signs are saying that he will.

SPJ and more than 50 other journalism and open government organizations have been pushing for a more open and transparent government for quite some time.

Among other improvements, the bill will establish a presumption of openness in the government (usually set by incoming presidents by executive order, but not a statutory requirement) and it will require all federal agencies to establish a single access portal.

FOIA reform is important for not only journalists, but the public as well. An open government is a healthy and robust government. When government leaders and agencies are allowed to keep information secret and hidden, journalists and citizens alike are kept in the dark and the foundations of American democracy fail.

Passage of this important legislation is due to the efforts of many people, but special thanks go to
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md. for their leadership and hard work working on a bipartisan basis, as well as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chaired the committee in the 113th Congress and introduced the original House bill (H.R. 653).

In the Senate, special thanks are due to two senators — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy , D-Vt. – for their bipartisan efforts to help make our government more transparent and accountable to the public.


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