Thursday, March 14, 2013

Plan would strengthen Freedom of Information Act

Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unveiled a new proposal to reform the Freedom of Information Act this week.

John McArdle of Environment & Energy Daily reports that the proposal includes a review and expansion of the online portal that allows the public to make FOIA requests; a requirement for agencies to put online all releasable information requested three or more times; a streamlining of the FOIA dispute-resolution process, with more specific timelines; and increased independence for the Office of Government Information Services, which would report directly to Congress without review by other agencies.

McArdle writes that the discussion draft would expand on the principle that, when in doubt, openness should prevail. Instead of requiring the public to justify the release of information, the burden on agencies to demonstrate why information should be withheld. When you lose the public's trust, you lose the ability to lead," said. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who is also a co-chairman of the Transparency Caucus in Congress.

The proposal comes during Sunshine Week, the annual observance to promote dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. We wrote about the importance of Sunshine Week and said people should speak out on the topic during this important time.

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