Cornyn, Leahy Bill Strengthening FOIA Passes Senate Unanimously

In: All News   Posted 03/15/2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, released the following statements after the Senate passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

“An open and transparent government is paramount to a healthy democracy, and today’s vote sends a clear message that the American people have a fundamental right to know what their government is doing,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation will update and strengthen existing law to ensure the American people can better access information from their government, and I’m grateful to Senator Leahy for his partnership in moving this important reform effort through the Senate.”

“Our very democracy is built on the idea that our government should not operate in secret. The FOIA Improvement Act will help open the government to the 300 million Americans it serves and ensure that future administrations place an emphasis on openness and transparency,” Sen. Leahy said.  “The Senate unanimously passed this legislation last Congress, but the House failed to act.  Senator Cornyn and I moved quickly to reintroduce our legislation last year, and I am glad the Senate has once again passed it with unanimous support.  The House must act to pass the FOIA Improvement Act so that it can be enacted this year.”

More information on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015:

The legislation approved unanimously last year by the Judiciary Committee, requires Federal agencies to operate under a “presumption of openness” when considering the release of government information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and aims to reduce the overuse of exemptions to withhold information from the public.

The legislation also provides the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), an office created by the Leahy-Cornyn OPEN Government Act in 2007 to help mediate FOIA disputes, with additional independence and authority to carry out its work.

The legislation aims to reduce bureaucracy in the FOIA request process by requiring the Office of Management and Budget to create a single portal through which individuals can submit a FOIA request to any agency. It also requires agencies proactively to disclose documents that are likely to be of public interest in order to increase access to government documents outside the often onerous FOIA request process.