In one of his last executive actions of the year, President Bush signed into law the "OPEN Government Act of 2007" on December 31, 2007. The Senate unanimously passed the reform bill earlier in December, and it passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on December 18. The Associated Press is reporting that Bush signed the bill without comment.
As I explained in a blog post two weeks ago, the legislation substantially reforms the Freedom of Information Act and expands the definition of who is a "representative of the news media" under FOIA. This change would significantly benefit bloggers and non-traditional journalists by making them eligible for reduced processing and duplication fees that are available to "representatives of the news media."Other important reforms include:
- Broadening the scope of information that can be requested by including government contracting information held by private contractors;
- Assigning public tracking numbers to all requests;
- Denying agencies that exceed the 20-day deadline for responses the right to charge requesters for search or copying costs;
- Making it easier to collect attorneys' fees for those who must sue to force compliance with their FOIA requests; and
- Establishing an office at the National Archives to accept citizen complaints, issue opinions on requests, and foster best practices within the government.