Image from hearings on IRS targeting of conservative groups
While we have all been watching the fallout from Dianne Feinstein’s revenge and the gigantic Congressional compromise omnibus continuing resolution that will keep the government funded for a few weeks, the Senate managed to pass the FOIA Improvement ActÂ on Monday after Jay Rockefeller’s hold for reasons of his own was lifted.
FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 – Amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to: (1) require federal agencies to make agency records that can be disclosed under such Act available for public inspection in an electronic format, (2) limit the authority of an agency to charge a fee if the agency misses a deadline for complying with a FOIA request, (3) establish a presumption in favor of disclosure and prohibit the application of exemptions from FOIA based on technicalities, (4) expand the authority and duties of the Chief FOIA Officer of each agency for promoting compliance with the FOIA disclosure requirements, and (5) establish a Chief FOIA Officers Council to develop recommendations for increasing compliance with FOIA requirements.
Requires the head of each federal agency to: (1) review agency regulations and issue regulations for the disclosure of records in accordance with the amendments to FOIA made by this Act, and (2) include in such regulations procedures for engaging in dispute resolution through the FOIA Public Liaison and the Office of Government Information Services.
Expands the program for the efficient management of federal agency records to require agency heads to establish procedures for: (1) identifying records of general interest or use to the public that are appropriate for public disclosure, and (2) posting such records in a publicly-accessible electronic format.
Prohibits the authorization of additional funds to carry out the requirements of this Act.
No more of the “we can’t find the emails because the computer was trashed” or “the back-up tapes disappeared” if this bill passes the House of Representatives. Â With this legislation, government agencies would be required to maintain copies of all of their records and correspondence. Â In electronic format. Â No more reams of paper for Darrell Issa to stack on committee hearing room desks, although it did make for great political theater.
Sponsored in the Senate by Senators Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tx.), the bill has broad bi-partisan support and seeks to improve the transparency of the federal government by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act which has been a thorn in the side of the Obama Administration for the last two years. Â FOIA has been used extensively by government watchdog groups to expose the regime and use the power of the court system to force the White House and other government agencies to cough up documents when Congressional requests were ignored. Â Without FOIA in its current form, we would not have any smoking guns on Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS targeting or any of the other scandals that have plagued the country of late.
As of this writing, the House of Representatives has not taken up any debate on passing the FOIA Improvement Act. Â In February, the House of Representatives passed a similar bill that stalled in the Senate.