President Obama has signed into law (P.L. 114-185) a FOIA reform bill that is a reaction to criticisms of agencies being unresponsive to requests under that law, while meantime touting steps his administration has taken and promising more.
The bill would establish a single website for making FOIA requests; direct agencies to make records available in an electronic format; reduce the number of exemptions agencies can use to withhold information from the public; clarify procedures for handling frequently requested documents and charging fees; and require additional reporting on FOIA matters.
Presidential memoranda and Justice Department guidelines already directed agencies to provide more FOIA information to the public on a more timely basis, the White House said in a fact sheet accompanying the signing.
It cited initiatives such as the creation of FOIA.gov.; allowing requesters to track status of their requests online or through mobile applications; the requirement since 2010 for agency chief FOIA officers to annually report on their efforts to implement the presumption of openness, improve their FOIA operations and facilitate information disclosure; and guidance to emphasize the importance of agencies improving communication with requesters and focusing on good customer service.
“The administration appreciates the bipartisan effort in Congress to enact this legislation, and looks forward to implementing it without delay,” the statement said.