ASNE applauds Senate for passing FOIA Improvements Act (S2520)

ASNE is pleased that the Senate passed the FOIA Improvements ACT (S 2520) by unanimous consent on Dec. 8. We hope ASNE members will 
join us in thanking the Senate for passing S 2520 and in asking the House to pass this legislation.

The American Society of News Editors applauds the Senate for passing S 2520, the FOIA Improvements Act, by unanimous consent on Monday afternoon. We especially appreciate the hard work and dedication of three key senators who helped shepherd this legislation through the Judiciary Committee and floor vote: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Charles Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), whose efforts are the ultimate proof that open government is truly bipartisan in nature.

"While the Senate made us wait until the late moments of its legislative work, we are extremely happy that they were able to ultimately pass this legislation," said ASNE President Chris Peck. "ASNE is proud to have worked with other journalism organizations, open government advocacy groups, citizens' organizations and dedicated individuals to improve the federal Freedom of Information Act. We hope that the House will take this up as soon as possible and present it to President Obama for signature so the American people can even more efficiently participate in the democratic process."

The FOIA Improvements Act was first introduced in the Senate on June 24. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a voice vote on Nov. 20. Among its key provisions are sections, which will codify the "presumption of openness" inherent in the federal FOIA; codify the "foreseeable harm" standard contained in a 2009 Attorney General's memorandum, which says that information should be given out even when it could be withheld pursuant to a FOIA exemption, unless foreseeable harm would result from its disclosure; amend exemption 5 to make it easier to obtain deliberative process documents, especially those of historical interest; and strengthen the Office of Government Information Services, sometimes referred to as the "FOIA Ombudsman." Similar legislation, also supported by ASNE, was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year. However, it is likely that, given the limited amount of legislative days left in 2014, the House will vote on S 2520 rather than try to resolve the differences between the two bills.

We hope ASNE members agree this is a strong step forward and that they will join us in thanking the Senate for passing S 2520 and in asking the House to pass this legislation.