Media coalition celebrates President Obama signing of FOIA reforms into law as FOIA turns 50
The Freedom of Information Act turns 50 on July 4
Washington, DC – June 30, 2016 — President Barack Obama’s signature on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 marks a high point in the half century history of the federal Freedom of Information Act.
“We are pleased to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the original Freedom of Information Act with a stronger FOIA,” said Rick Blum, director of the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of media associations that has strongly supported efforts by Congress to make federal agencies implement FOIA as Congress intended a half century ago. “We thank President Obama for signing the legislation into law.”
“FOIA is the most effective oversight tool available to the public, including journalists. Over the last 50 years, FOIA has helped improve public safety, save taxpayer dollars, and expose malfeasance or just plain bad decisions. Strengthening FOIA and limiting the government’s ability to abuse or plain ignore it is a fitting birthday present to the American people as we celebrate the Fourth of July and FOIA’s 50th birthday.”
The new law ends the ability of agencies to withhold deliberations otherwise not protected under FOIA after 25 years, writes clearly into law the presumption of disclosure, strengthens the FOIA Ombudsman so the office can assert itself with the independence that Congress intended, makes FOIA more public-friendly by creating a single FOIA portal for agencies to receive requests and build additional public-friendly tools, and requires agencies to report on their FOIA track record each year in time for Sunshine Week.
Today’s signing could not have been possible without the bipartisan efforts of many in the U.S. House and Senate. We would like to especially thank House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), as well as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), who chaired the committee in the 113th Congress and introduced the original House bill (H.R. 653). In the Senate, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Ia.), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.) worked for several years on bipartisan, bicameral efforts to help make our government more transparent and accountable to the public.