UPDATE: House fails to vote on FOIA reform

December 10, 2014 02:00

UPDATE: 12/12/14
The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned late Thursday evening without bringing the Freedom of Information Improvement Act to a vote. Despite the original bill pasing the House 410-0 and a unanimous vote for its companion bill in the Senate on Monday, last-minute wrangling over the federal budget kept nearly all other issues off the table in the final hours. The bills sponsors will now need to reintroduce the measure in both houses in 2015 when the new Congress begins its term.

With a Congressional recess looming on Thursday, the House has one more day to vote on the Freedom of Information Improvement Act. The House had unanimously passed a version of the bill earlier this year, but must vote on the amended version passed by the Senate on Monday for it to reach the White House and an expected presidential signature.

In a letter to House Leaders, the Sunshine in Government Initiative, of which RTDNA is a member, calls on the House to pass the bipartisan bill, which would strengthen the current Freedom of Information law and reduce the technicalities some government agencies have employed to deny information requests.

The full letter follows:
December 10, 2014
The Honorable John Boehner                    The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker                                                      Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives   United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510                              Washington, DC 20510
Dear Mister Speaker and Minority Leader Pelosi,
The Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) respectfully urges you to bring S. 2520 (the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014) to a vote of the full House before the House of Representatives adjourns. This bipartisan, commonsense legislation was approved unanimously in the Senate, and the House passed a companion bill (H.R. 1211) by a recorded vote of 410-0.
SGI is a coalition of media associations including the American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, National Newspaper Association, Newspaper Association of America, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society of Professional Journalists.
We encourage the House to vote now because the opportunity to enact reforms to strengthen government transparency on a bipartisan basis is rare. The FOIA Improvement Act takes several steps to strengthen federal agencies’ efforts to implement their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), such as limiting the ability of agencies to hide decades old documents from the public, clarifying that Congress intends the Office of Government Information Services to speak with an independent, assertive voice in settling disputes arising under FOIA, and ensuring agencies use modern technology and start from the presumption of openness when receiving and responding to requests from the public.
We appreciate your commitment to make the federal government more open and to help ensure federal agencies meet their commitments that Congress set out under FOIA.

Rick Blum
Director, Sunshine in Government Initiative
Cc:                   The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader
                        The Honorable Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip