Issa, Cummings introduce bipartisan legislation to bolster FOIA

U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) stood together on Monday to introduce legislation designed to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The bill, known as the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015, would require an environment of openness for releasing information. It also would develop electronic availability for information that is released repeatedly, while reiterating compliance with FOIA requirements and providing a clean process for the resolution of disputes.

“At a time when the American people’s trust in the federal government is at an all-time low, we must strengthen and refine our laws that enable transparency and openness in government,” Issa said. “Requests through the Freedom of Information Act remain the best tool for the American people to hold their government accountable. In this information technology-driven era, it should be easier, not harder for citizens to have simpler and broader access to government information.”

In addition to creating a presumption of openness, the bill will require agencies to post frequently requested information, establish a 25-year sunset on the controversial “deliberative process” exemption, create a single portal for FOIA requesters, empower the FOIA Ombudsman, increase oversight and review of FOIA compliance, streamline the dispute resolution process, mandate consistent FOIA regulations updates, and establish a Chief FOIA Officer Council.

“This bipartisan legislation will strengthen one of our most critical open government laws by bringing greater sunlight to federal agency actions,” Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said. “There should be a presumption of openness in this country, and agencies should have to justify their actions when they want to withhold information from the American people.”

Both chambers will work on the bipartisan, bicameral legislation during the 114th Congress.