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House Committee Passes FOIA Reform Bill

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The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved, by voice vote, a bill (Hr 1309) to reform the Freedom of Information Act. The bill would create an ombudsman, located in the National Archives, to help requesters who run into agency delays or are denied requested information. It also directs agencies to create tracking numbers for every request, improve their reporting on FOIA performance, and waive fees if they fail to meet the 20-day time limit for providing the requested records. It requires agencies to pay the legal fees for a requester if they at first deny a request but then release the information after being sued. The bill establishes a presumption that government records are public and should be released if “the agency does not reasonably forsee that disdclosure would be harmful.” The bill is sponsored by Reps. William Lacey Clay, D-MO, Todd Platts, R-PA, and Henry Waxman, D-CA. (3/6/07)

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