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A triumphant day for open government: FOIA reform bill passes both chambers of Congress

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its swift action yesterday in…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its swift action yesterday in passing bipartisan reforms to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) sent over from the Senate on Friday.

“This is the most significant victory for transparency in the federal government in more than a decade,” Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish said. “There is still much work to be done, but this is a major step toward a more open and accountable democracy.”

The Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act, or OPEN Government Act (S. 2488), emphasizes FOIA deadlines and creates penalties for federal agencies that fail to respond to records requests. The act also develops a tracking system for individual information requests, creates an ombudsman to mediate information disputes and makes it easier to recover attorney’s fees when requesters are forced to file suit to get records.

An earlier version of the act overwhelmingly passed the House back in March, but differences in that bill and one later passed by the Senate forced sponsors from both chambers to work out a single bill agreeable to all.

The legislation now moves to the President’s desk for his signature. With the act’s strong bipartisan support, the White House has not indicated any intention to veto the bill.