Leahy, Cornyn Renew “Faster FOIA” Effort During Sunshine Week

Longtime FOIA Partners Again Working To Strengthen Open Government Law

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, March 16, 2011) – As Sunshine Week commemorations continue, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas.) Wednesday renewed their legislative efforts to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation’s premier open government law.  Leahy and Cornyn are longtime leaders in Congress on FOIA issues. 

The Faster FOIA Act will establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests.  The panel, named the Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays, will be required to provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency responses to FOIA requests.  The panel will be required to identify methods to reduce delays in the processing of FOIA requests, and will be charged with examining whether the system for charging fees and granting fee waivers under FOIA should be reformed in order to reduce delays in processing fee requests.

“Senator Cornyn and I first introduced the Faster FOIA Act in 2005 to address the growing problem of excessive FOIA delays within our federal agencies,” said Leahy.  “The Faster FOIA Act will help ensure the dissemination of government information to the American people, so that our democracy remains vibrant and free.  As we commemorate Sunshine Week, I join all Americans in celebrating an open and transparent government.”

“This bill helps bring our government one step closer to better transparency,” Cornyn said. “This commission will identify methods to reduce delays in the processing of FOIA requests and ensure the efficient and equitable administration of FOIA throughout the federal government. It would be a great benefit to the American people, who deserve to be treated as valued customers when they seek answers from their government.  I hope that all of my colleagues in the Senate will support this bill when it comes to the floor.”

Leahy and Cornyn have teamed together in the past to author legislation to make the federal government more open and transparent to the people it represents.  In past years, they authored the OPEN Government Act, which was signed into law in 2007 and made the first major reforms to FOIA in more than a decade.  In 2009, Leahy and Cornyn authored the OPEN FOIA Act, which mandated greater transparency for legislative exemptions to FOIA.  That bill was signed into law in October 2009.

This week marks the seventh annual Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of an open and transparent government.  On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs and on which Cornyn is a member, held a hearing on “The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age.”

Leahy was installed in the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 1996.  In 2009, he was awarded the Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award. 

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693