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Introduction Of "Openness Promotes Effectiveness In Our National Government Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


* Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, today I introduced the ``Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007'' (the ``OPEN Government Act'').

* This legislation will give the public more information and better insight into the workings of government by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

* The OPEN Government Act also creates a broader definition of ``news media'' so that additional types of news media can obtain government documents at minimal cost.

* The legislation establishes a system that assigns individualized tracking numbers to requests for information so individuals can track their requests.

* I want to protect our open system of government and ensure that the Federal government responds to the American people.

* Unfortunately, the process for obtaining government information is overly burdensome and federal agencies have become less and less responsive to requests for information.

* This deters citizens from obtaining information to which they are entitled.

* Taxpayers should have the opportunity to obtain information quickly and easily from the Federal government.

* I had hoped to work with the Democrats to draft bipartisan legislation this year and we were able to compromise on several provisions of the bill.

* Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement on all provisions.

* The bill I am introducing today includes provisions regarding recovery of attorneys' fees when an individual has been wrongly denied information, penalties for agencies that do not comply within the specified FOIA time limits, and additional agency reporting requirements.

* However, the key issue the Democrats insisted on adding to the bill was a statutory presumption of disclosure surrounding FOIA.

* It would in essence reverse the FOIA guidelines set out by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

* In 2001, then Attorney General Ashcroft established a policy that information from the government should not be provided if it was likely to threaten national security or invade personal privacy.

* My bill would continue this policy and make FOIA requests subject to these national security and personal privacy concerns.

* This bill makes it easier for citizens to get an answer to their requests for information. Citizens should have the opportunity to obtain information quickly and easily from the Federal government.

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