FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: House passes FOIA bill; Obama expected to sign

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

FOIA reform bill headed to Obama

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, June 13, 2016

A bill aimed at improving the federal government's responses to Freedom of Information Act requests passed the House on Monday and will soon be headed for the White House, where the measure is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Both houses of Congress have been considering versions of the legislation for several years, with a bill coming very close to passage in 2014 before hitting a last-minute snag.

The House cleared the way for final passage of the FOIA Improvement Act Monday by agreeing to a version of the bill the Senate passed in March and which the White House said President Barack Obama would sign. The bill passed the House on a voice vote during the so-called suspension calendar used for non-controversial legislation.

"I believe that this is the best bill we can send to the president's desk. I have no doubt that the reforms contained in this bill will significantly improve the Americans' public ability to exercise their right to access information. The most important reform is the presumption of openness," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said.

In addition to adding a presumption in favor of disclosure to the actual text of FOIA, the bill would also create a centralized portal for FOIA requests across the government.

However, the legislation was watered down somewhat from earlier versions before it passed the Senate in March. The changes were made to overcome resistance by some federal agencies and their supporters on Capitol Hill.

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