March 15, 2016

Senate Unanimously Approves FOIA Improvement Act

WASHINGTON – The Senate today unanimously approved the FOIA Improvement Act, a bill that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley previously shepherded through the committee process. Grassley is also a cosponsor of the legislation, which requires the government to adopt a “presumption of openness” when processing requests for government records via the Freedom of Information Act.

“The people have a right to know what their government is up to, but we often hear about how federal agencies are either slow to respond to records requests or even look for ways to avoid disclosing public records. Transparency leads to accountability, and we can all agree that more accountability in government is a good thing. The Senate’s sign-off on this bipartisan bill to improve our federal records requests process and bring greater transparency to government is a good step to helping FOIA work again,” Grassley said.

The FOIA Improvement Act clarifies that the government’s default response to FOIA requests should be to provide rather than withhold government information. It places a 25-year sunset on the government’s ability to withhold certain documents that demonstrate how the government reaches decisions, which now can be withheld indefinitely from the public. The bill requires agencies to make publicly available documents that have been requested and released three or more times under FOIA, and empowers the office of Government Information Services to better address FOIA issues through additional independence. The bill also improves technology to improve the information requesting process. It is sponsored by Senators John Cornyn and Patrick Leahy, and is also cosponsored by Senators Coons, Fischer and Tester, as well as Grassley.