The bill — called the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act — aims to create a single online portal where people can make FOIA requests. It would seek to limit current exemptions allowing federal agencies to withhold information and would also require agencies to publicly post frequently requested records online.
FOIA reform has been a continuous discussion for years following complaints about the process from journalists, the public and members of Congress.
“We regularly use the Freedom of Information Act and regularly find ourselves frustrated,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the bill’s author and a former chairman of the House Oversight Committee, The Hill reported.
Politico reported the reforms would clarify language allowing agencies to withhold information requested only when there is “foreseeable harm” to an interests protected by a FOIA exemption, such as privacy or national security.
“The bill before us today is the product of three years of work, hard work, negotiation and perseverance,” House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Cummings said. “The FOIA Act would strengthen a cornerstone of our open government laws.”
The bill will have a significant impact in terms of FOIA requests for most parts of government other than the Department of Defense and law enforcement agencies.
“In large part, the FOIA, the way it operates now, is broken,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said. “This piece of legislation will make that FOIA process smoother. It’ll make it more effective, more efficient.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday would not comment whether the Senate’s version of the bill would be scheduled.