Senate Moves FOIA Bill Forward

This year, both the House and Senate have taken up the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  In January, the House passed Rep. Issa’s FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act to allow greater access to Federal agency records by using an electronic format; publicize information for a point of contact within each Agency who can provide information about FOIA request status; require an Agency to identify the applicable statute that grants an exemption from disclosure; and limit those waivers to communications more than 25 years old.

On March 15th, the Senate passed a similar but not identical measure, the FOIA Improvement Act (S 337).  Among the key differences, this version creates a single online portal for FOIA requests to all Federal agencies; establishes a Chief FOIA Officers Council to develop recommendations for increasing compliance and efficiency in responding to FOIA requests, increase transparency and compliance, and promote performance measures to ensure compliance; and delegates greater authority to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the Federal FOIA oversight entity.

Prospects for quickly aligning the two measures and sending it to the President’s desk are good.