Electronic records act introduced in House
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Congressional action on access to electronic government records took another step forward in mid-July as Rep. Randy Tate (R-Wash.) introduced the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendments Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Act strongly resembles the Electronic FOI Improvements Act introduced last year by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Both bills try to guarantee that the federal government’s electronic records will be public to the same extent that their paper counterparts would be, and that the public can enjoy the same benefits from the federal government’s electronic recordkeeping that government agencies themselves enjoy.
Tate’s bill would require agencies to give expedited review to FOI requesters who demonstrate a “compelling need” for the information. It defines that standard as applying to persons “engaged in disseminating information” when the subject matter of the request is of “compelling urgency to the public.”
The expedited review standard differs from that of the Leahy bill which mirrors a standard currently in effect at the Department of Justice granting priority to requests that concern issues of “widespread contemporaneous” media interest.
Like the Leahy bill, the Tate measure would extend the time for granting or denying FOI requests from 10 to 20 working days, a measure intended to allow agencies a greater timeframe in which to prepare a response.
Both bills call on agencies to sort requests into queues for multitrack processing so that shorter requests would not be delayed indefinitely while longer requests dominate FOI Act specialists’ time.
Tate is a first-term Republican on the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight’s Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology. Cosponsors of his bill include the subcommittee’s chairman Rep. Stephen Horn (D-Calif), and members Rep. Carol Maloney (D-New York) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D- Minn.). (H.R.3802; S.1090)