FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Obama signs FOIA reform legislation

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Obama signs bill easing access to government records

By KVUE/AP, June 30, 2016

President Barack Obama has signed legislation into law making it easier for the public to obtain government records.

Federal agencies will now be required to consider releasing records under a "presumption of openness" standard, instead of presuming that the information is secret. Supporters say the shift will make it harder for agencies to block the release of government information.

The law aims to reduce the number of exemptions the government uses to withhold information.

An online portal will be created for individuals to submit document requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Agencies currently handle requests in different ways.

The law also places a 25-year sunset on the government's ability to withhold documents that demonstrate how the government reaches decisions.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued statements following the signing:

“One of our country’s hallmark values is a commitment to open and transparent government, and today is an important step towards ensuring the American people can hold their government accountable,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I appreciate Senator Leahy’s partnership on this bill and I am pleased to see it become law today.”

“It is fitting that the original Freedom of Information Act shares its birthday with our republic itself, and that we celebrate it by ushering in the most significant reforms to our nation’s premier transparency law in 50 years,” Sen. Leahy said. “The FOIA Improvement Act brings FOIA into the digital age and ensures that sunshine, not secrecy, is the default setting of our government. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Cornyn to ensure that FOIA remains a successful transparency tool in the years to come.”