It’s time for FOIA reform. The Sunlight Foundation is joined by 46 other public interest groups in making that call and celebrating the movement that’s already happened.
Some background: The House and Senate both passed FOIA reform last year. The Senate bill in particular was the product of months of negotiations, which pushed the process up until the last second. Despite some very real concessions – notably the loss of the public interest balancing test in the Senate version – some eleventh hour stalling tactics from agencies and, strangely, the banks they regulate, managed to stall the bill to death.
Then 2015 came around, and the offices working on FOIA reform in both chambers have made it a top priority. The Senate reintroduced the version of the FOIA Improvement Act with only one small tweak, while the House introduced the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015, which is far superior to last year’s House bill. Our friends at the National Security Archive have as good of a comparison of the two 2015 bills as you’re going to get posted here.
The movement caught us by surprise – both bills were introduced last Monday. It’s a clear signal to opponents of open government: Stalling won’t work this time. And senators themselves made FOIA and OLC opinions an issue at the Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
As for today’s news, the bill is already being marked up – today. Quite literally, right now.
Leahy, Cornyn FOIA Improvement Act passed out of committee. Huzzah. pic.twitter.com/JO0afrPxyy
— Sean Vitka (@SeanVitka) November 20, 2014
…and it just passed out of the Judiciary Committee:
[BREAKING] Senate Judiciary Committee again unan. approves #FOIA Improvement Act by Senator Cornyn & Senator Leahy. Nxt stop: Senate Floor.
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) February 5, 2015
With today’s markup, accountability, good governance and transparency groups from across the political spectrum are announcing their support for the strongest FOIA reform possible. It’s like that one family Thanksgiving you went to where everyone got along really well. The letter is below. We’re turning our efforts over to the House now to ensure we make the most progress possible. Stay tuned – we may well need your help.