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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Senate Panel Approves Cornyn-Leahy FOIA Reform

It received virtually no notice in the major outlets of the mainstream media and I have to confess I didn't even know it was on the panel's calendar but the Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved on a voice vote the Open Government Act sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT.

Cornyn-Leahy was first introduced in 2002 and provides the most comprehensive reforms ever of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act. Among other things, Cornyn-Leahy provides concrete penalties for individual federal employees and agencies that violate the FOIA and establishes an independent panel to monitor agency compliance and moderate disputes between requestors and agencies.

The measure also grants bloggers the same public interest fee waiver rights as are now enjoyed by mainstream media requestors and strengthens oversight of a Department of Homeland Security program that exempts information voluntarily provided to the government by corporations involved in security activities.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Todd Platts, R-PA and is now in the House Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA. I have testified before both the Senate and House in favor of Cornyn-Leahy. You can read that testimony here and here.

Government Executive magazine reports here on last week's Senate vote.