Last Friday night (8/3), the United States Senate passed the the FOIA reform bill, S.849, before retiring for its August recess. We discussed the proposed FOIA amendments in detail a few weeks ago, when Senator Kyl was still holding the bill up in the Senate. The most notable aspect of the draft legislation from our perspective is its expansive definition of "the news media," which appears to encompass bloggers and other online journalists. The bill also establishes a tracking system for individual information requests, reinforces FOIA deadlines for federal agencies, allows for recovery of attorney's fees when a requester is forced to file suit, and creates a FOIA ombudsman to help resolve disputes between the public and agencies without litigation.
When Congress reconvenes in September, the Senate and House (H.R.1309) versions of the bill likely will go to Conference to resolve small differences between them before final passage into law (assming, of course, that there is no presidential veto). (Please see the Open Congress website to search for the most recently available text of S.849 and H.R.1309.)
The CMLP applauds this important step towards greater efficiency, transparency, and fairness in handling requests for government information.