Landmark Public Online Information Act Jointly Reintroduced In House And Senate


Today Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) reintroduced the landmark Public Online Information Act. If enacted, POIA would bring the government into the 21st century by requiring the government to embrace the presumption that government-held information, already required to be public, must be available online. Data should be free from the shadows of obscurity and brought into the sunlight of the Internet.

The current way information is often made accessible in Washington is that you often must show up in person at a musty repository and photocopy information page by page — or try your luck at freeing information through a FOIA request and endure countless (and possibly politicized) bureaucratic business days. The public demands better; it looks online for information.

Amid immediate concerns over government transparency projects losing funding, it is important to push for the sweeping, cultural shift that Washington desperately needs. That’s why we continue to advocate for the information government produces to be available online, in user friendly formats, and available to the public at no cost.

The Sunlight Foundation is excited to have this legislation moving forward with our partners on the Hill and look forward to moving past the current situation of government today on 4/04. Senator Tester and Representative Israel are strongly advocating the values of openness and transparency. Here’s what they have to say about POIA.

Senator Tester:

Montanans elected me to bring our values of transparency and accountability to the Senate, and I’m doing just that. I’m proud to sponsor this common sense plan because it’s time to raise the bar and set new standards for public access. We’ve got to make sure transparency is keeping up with technology. A little sunshine on government is always a good thing, and folks in Montana aren’t alone in expecting accountability from their leaders.

Representative Israel:

Every day, 78 percent of American adults use the Internet. It’s become our first stop for news and research. Our government needs to catch up. People across the country – from scholars to school children – should be able to see any public government information from the convenience of their computer. Public should mean online. That’s why I’m reintroducing my legislation to require that all executive branch agencies make their public documents easily available and searchable on the Internet.

We encourage folks to take a look at the summary of the legislation. It is a common sense solution to moving our government forward. POIA includes a sunrise provision that would mandate that newly created data be released after enactment, but would not require it of government data not previously released. In addition, the legislation would give government agencies three years to build the capacity and regulations needed to comply with POIA. It facilitates inter-branch cooperation by creating an advisory board that brings together all three branches of government to create guidelines for information sharing. Finally, POIA gives the American people the right to petition the government for online access to certain information, and be able to vindicate their rights in court, in a similar fashion to that allowed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Visit to learn more about the legislation or watch this handy introduction video: