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Fourth feted with FOIA reform!

After nearly a decade of advocacy work by ALA, other activists and government officials, with the President’s signature last night we and the nation finally have a long-needed update to FOIA just in time to celebrate FOIA’s 50th birthday on July 4th. Now we can all celebrate our nation’s independence with the knowledge that our country will have an even more transparent and open government! The Founders would be pleased!

At a time when not much seems to be getting done in Congress, ALA was thrilled to see this important step forward for government transparency! The FOIA Improvement Act:

  • Codifies the “presumption of openness” for government documents for future administrations;
  • Harnesses technology to improve the FOIA process;
  • Limits, to a period of 25 years, the period of time that agencies may keep records of their internal deliberations confidential; and
  • Increases the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services (created in the last FOIA reform bill, the OPEN Government Act of 2007)

When the Senate bill was first introduced on February 2, 2015, at the start of this Congress, we were hopeful that FOIA reform would progress swiftly.  While that was not quite the case (the Senate bill passed on March 15th of this year and the House adopted its version on May 13th), Congress still successfully reconciled the two bills and sent the version just signed into law to the President on June 22nd.

The White House has said that they will release guidance for compliance with the new law later this year and has committed to setting up a centralized online request portal for all federal agencies by next year. Watch this space for more details as they become available and, in the meantime, have an extra-happy Fourth of July!

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Jessica McGilvray

Jessica McGilvray is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.

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