The House passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Improvement Act, S. 337, this week by voice vote, clearing a path for the bill to reach the president’s desk.
The bill was introduced on February 2, 2015 and previously passed the Senate on March 15th of this year, and it would modify the original FOIA of 1966 and its subsequent amendments. If it becomes law, FOIA Improvement Act updates aim to improve access to government documents. The new bill would move FOIA into the modern era by generating one government website for public record requests and by directing agencies to make records available in an electronic format. Additionally, it would reduce the exemptions available to agencies seeking to withhold information, clarify procedures for frequently requested documents and fees, establish a Chief FOIA Officers Council, and require agencies to prepare additional reports for Congress on FOIA matters. Enacting the legislation is estimated to cost $5 million annually, a one percent increase over the current administrative costs of FOIA. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the initial act.