Grassley Leads Colleagues in Review of FOIA Improvement Act Rollout
Mar 16, 2017
Senators’ request coincides with Sunshine Week
WASHINGTON— Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are seeking details on the government’s implementation of a new law aimed and improving public access to federal records. The request by Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein and Senators John Cornyn and Patrick Leahy, coincides with Sunshine week and National Freedom of Information Day. In letters to three federal agencies, the senators are asking for information on the progress of implementing the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, as well as broader government efforts to encourage openness and transparency.
“Americans have a right to know what their government is up to, and transparency leads to greater accountability. Today is Freedom of Information Day, a time to celebrate the benefits of an accessible and transparent government. It’s also a reminder that transparency hasn’t always come easy. Important tools like the Freedom of Information Act have helped to peel back the curtains on government, but compliance requires oversight.
“Last year, I joined my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to pass the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which substantially strengthens FOIA and the public’s access to information. This week, we are continuing our work to foster greater transparency by making sure that this new law’s implementation is on track and that FOIA compliance remains a top priority,” Grassley said.
The senators’ requests were sent to three federal agencies tasked with implementing the FOIA Improvement Act: the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice, the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration, and the White House Office of Management and Budget. Among other questions, the senators are seeking information on the status and progress of the Act’s implementation, as well as information on the administration’s efforts to update FOIA regulations and guidance, encourage proactive disclosure of records, and create a more customer-friendly and collaborative FOIA response process.
On June 30, 2016, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 became law. This was the first bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 114th Congress under Chairman Grassley’s leadership. The FOIA Improvement Act strengthens public access to government information under the Freedom of Information Act. Among numerous improvements, it clarifies that the government’s presumed 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 previously could be withheld indefinitely from the public. The FOIA Improvement Act grants additional independence to the Office of Government Information Services, empowering it to better address and bring attention to FOIA issues. The bill also uses technology to improve the FOIA process by mandating the creation of a consolidated online FOIA request portal. Senator Grassley was a lead co-sponsor of the FOIA Improvement Act.