House committee passes online reforms for FOIA

The bill would strengthen the office that acts as the FOIA ombudsman and create an online portal for FOIA requests.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill that aims to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The legislation, called the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015, would establish a single online portal for FOIA requests; bolster the independence of the Office of Government Information Services, the federal FOIA ombudsmen; and codify the federal government’s commitment to openness.

During the markup hearing, the committee also added an amendment from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., that would require all federal agencies to accept FOIA requests via email and publish that email address on their websites.

The panel’s senior Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who sponsored the bill with former chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., spoke in support of the amendment. He said a General Services Administration team that has been working to create a consolidated portal prototype for FOIA requests reported that not all agencies currently accept emailed FOIA requests, Cummings said.


“This provision would making submitting a FOIA request easier,” Cummings said.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

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