Freedom of Information Act Reform Bill Clears Senate Panel

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week cleared a Freedom of Information reform bill (S. 849) by voice vote. The bill is similar to one overwhelmingly passed in March by the House of Representatives (H.R. 1309).

S. 849 strengthens the requirement that agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days. The bill requires agencies to provide requesters with individualized tracking numbers for each request and access to a telephone or Internet hotline with information about the status of requests. The legislation also strengthens agency reporting requirements to identify excessive delays and creates a new FOIA ombudsman to help FOIA requesters resolve problems without having to resort to litigation.

A similar bill passed the Judiciary Committee during the 109th Congress, but was not acted on by the full Senate.