Senate Unanimously Approves Leahy-Cornyn Faster FOIA Act

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Thursday night unanimously approved legislation to make improvements to the nation’s premier open government law, the Freedom of Information Act.  The Faster FOIA Act, which is authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“I commend the Senate for unanimously passing the Faster FOIA Act of 2011,” said Leahy.  “This important bill will establish a bipartisan commission to examine the root causes of agency delays in processing FOIA requests, and to recommend to the Congress and the President steps to help eliminate FOIA backlogs.   I hope that the House of Representatives will promptly pass this good government legislation, so that the Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays can begin its work.”

“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.”

The Faster FOIA Act will establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests and provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency responses to such requests. The panel will be tasked 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, as well as identifying any other methods to reduce the delay in the processing of FOIA requests.  
Leahy and Cornyn reintroduced the Faster FOIA Act in March during the seventh annual Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of an open and transparent government.  The bill was first introduced in the Senate in 2005.  Leahy and Cornyn have been longtime partners in advancing legislation to strengthen FOIA, and have championed such bills as the OPEN Government Act and the OPEN FOIA Act.

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