SJC Unanimously Approves Leahy-Cornyn Faster FOIA Bill

Bipartisan Effort Will Address Agency FOIA Request Backlogs

WASHINGTON (Thursday, April 7, 2011) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved bipartisan legislation authored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) to further improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation’s premier open government law.  It is the third time since 2005 that the panel approved the legislation.  

The Faster FOIA Act will create 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. 

“The Faster FOIA Act will establish a bipartisan commission to examine the root causes of agency FOIA delays, and to recommend to Congress and the President steps to help eliminate FOIA backlogs,” said Leahy.  “I have said many times over the years that open government is neither a Democratic issue, nor a Republican issue – it is an American value that we all must uphold.  I thank Senator Cornyn for his partnership in advancing this important bill.”

“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 introduced the Faster FOIA Act in March during the seventh annual Sunshine Week, a national observance of the importance of an open and transparent government. 

In past years, Leahy and Cornyn have worked together to author successful legislation to make important reforms to FOIA, including the OPEN Government Act, which was signed into law in 2007 and made the first major reforms to FOIA in more than a decade. They also authored the OPEN FOIA Act in 2009, which mandated greater transparency for legislative exemptions to FOIA. The legislation was signed into law in the fall of 2009. 

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