Momentum builds to promote open government
September 26, 2006
Rick Blum, coordinator, Sunshine in Government Initiative
703-807-2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A key House subcommittee has scheduled a vote tomorrow on the OPEN Government Act (H.R. 867), which would fix longstanding obstacles the public faces accessing government documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
What: Subcommittee vote on the OPEN Government Act (H.R. 867)
Where: House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance & Accountability
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 at 2pm
When: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2247
Who: The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) and the bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and has 31 House co-sponsors. The OPEN Government Act has also been pushed on a bipartisan basis in the House by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
The scheduled vote comes less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the identical Senate version (S. 394) of the OPEN Government Act. The attention Congress is giving this bill in both chambers reflects the urgency members of Congress feel about removing unnecessary obstacles the public faces getting government records and reforming the FOIA process. On July 26, Chairman Platts held a hearing to review the Freedom of Information Act, which signed into law 40 years ago on July 4, 1966. That hearing was Rep. Platts’ second hearing focused on FOIA in as many years. The hearings documented that FOIA has been a less reliable, less timely and less effective tool for the public.
ABOUT THE OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT
Among the specific reforms, the bill (1) helps FOIA requesters obtain timely responses to their requests by restoring meaningful deadlines for agency action, (2) requires agencies to create FOIA hotlines and request tracking systems to help the public follow up on requests, (3) creates an independent mediator to help resolve disputes and encourage alternatives to litigation, (4) makes it easier for requesters to recover attorney fees when litigation is unavoidable, and (5) penalizes agencies for delaying responses.
ABOUT THE SUNSHINE IN GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE
The Sunshine in Government Initiative is a coalition of media groups committed to promoting policies that ensure the government is accessible, accountable and open. Public oversight is the ultimate safeguard of democracy. It is the inalienable right of citizens to examine and judge their government; and that right is served when news media act on behalf of the public to gain access to information.
American Society of Newspaper Editors
The Associated Press
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
Coalition of Journalists for Open Government
National Newspaper Association
Newspaper Association of America
Radio-Television News Directors Association
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional Journalists