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Oversight Committee Endorses Public Access to Agency Reports to Congress

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Legislation that would require virtually all agency reports to Congress be available online in one central location advanced out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday on a voice vote. The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, originally sponsored by Rep. Mike Quigley and enjoying the bipartisan support of Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings, will need the sign-off of the Committee on House Administration before it can get a vote on the House floor. In March, 26 organizations wrote to the Oversight Committee to express their support for ACMRA.

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Supreme Court FOI Decision Foolish and Shortsighted

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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Virginia law that generally prohibits non-Virginians from making use of its Freedom of Information law. As part of its decision in McBurney v. Young, the Court held that the Constitution's Article IV "Privileges and Immunities" clause does not extend to a non-Virginian's right to access public information on equal terms with Virginia citizens. The Constitution says that "the Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States," and the clause was intended to prevent a state from treating citizens of another state in a discriminatory manner. This ruling allows states like Virginia, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Tennessee to continue to make the benefits of their freedom of information laws available only to their citizens. The Court squares this logical circle by concluding that the access to public information made available under state FOI laws are not "basic to the maintenance or well-being of the Union," and thus not a "fundamental" privilege or immunity the Constitution was intended to protect. It baldly states, without evidence, that "there is no contention that the Nation's unity founded in [the absence of FOIA laws prior to the 1960s], or that it is suffering now because of the citizens-only FOIA provisions that several States have enacted."

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