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Changing FOIA

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From the Spring 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 22. A bill to reform the Freedom…

From the Spring 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 22.

A bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act passed the House by a 308-117 vote on March 14. A similar bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 12 and awaits a vote by the full Senate. Some key provisions of the bills are:

• Create an ombudsman to provide an alternative to litigating FOIA disputes and to conduct analysis of agency information practices.

• Expand eligibility for reduced fees for “news media” requesters. This will benefit bloggers and other journalists who lack a traditional publication history.

• Allow for requesters to more easily recoup attorney fees if a lawsuit prompts an agency to turn over records.

• In the House version of the bill, if an agency misses the 20-day deadline to acknowledge a request, it must refund search and duplication fees.

• Require each request be assigned an individual tracking number.

• The House version of the bill mandates that redactions be justified with specific citations to legal authority.

• Create additional categories of data for agencies to provide statistics on. –NW