FOIA Improvements, Government Openness

By January 2, 2008Media Relations

President Bush on Monday signed S. 2488, the Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007, to improve the speed and accountability of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), and Sen. Cornyn’s website has a statement on the bill’s passage, saying the legislation will:

  • Restore meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA;
  • Impose real consequences on federal agencies for missing FOIA’s 20-day statutory deadline;
  • Clarify that FOIA applies to government records held by outside private contractors;
  • Establish a FOIA hotline service for all federal agencies; and
  • Create a FOIA Ombudsman to provide FOIA requestors and federal agencies with a meaningful alternative to costly litigation.
  • Most people associate FOIA with the federal government meeting the demands of the media, but business also uses the law to gather information and hold government accountable for its decision making. As NAM President John Engler wrote in a June 21st letter to the Senate on an earlier version of the bill, S. 849:

    The NAM appreciates that FOIA allows its members to obtain information that should be publicly available, even as it protects the release of information that is truly confidential and proprietary. Far too often, businesses need to resort to the FOIA process for a variety of reasons, including complying fully with federal laws and regulations, obtaining information needed for an investigation or a legal proceeding and understanding the reasoning behind agency decisions.

    Good legislation. Congrats to those who got it done.

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