Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Senate sends House a bill to strengthen the FOIA

The Senate passed a bill Monday to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act, and it awaits approval in the House, which unanimously passed a similar bill in February.

"One of the most important changes included in the act is codifying the 'presumption of disclosure' that was announced by President Obama and Attorney General Holder in 2009," Adam Marshall writes for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "Including this presumption in the law itself will help ensure that FOIA requests from reporters and members of the public are not hindered by policy changes in subsequent administrations. Under the new standard, and agency may only withhold information if it 'reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption' or another provision of law."

The bill, which passed by unanimous consent, was in danger because of a hold placed on it by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), apparently at the behest of the Federal Trade Commission. He lifted his hold on the bill late Monday, allowing the bill to proceed, Marshall reports: "When asked about the reasons for his delay, the senator rather mysteriously said, 'It’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.'"

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