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Smith Introduces Open Government Act

Location: Washington, DC

Smith Introduces Open Government Act
February 16, 2005

Washington, DC - Congressman Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) introduced the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005 or Open Government Act today, legislation designed to give the public more access to information and insight into the workings of government by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is the bill's sponsor in the Senate.

"The Freedom of Information Act performs a vital check and balance on the federal branch. It protects our open system of government and ensures that the government responds to the American people," Smith said.

"Unfortunately, the process for obtaining government information is overly burdensome and federal agencies have become less and less responsive to requests for information," Smith noted. "This deters citizens from seeking information to which they are entitled."

"Taxpayers should have the opportunity to obtain information quickly and easily. This legislation will greatly improve the public's right to know what the government is doing in their name," Smith concluded.

The bill does the following:

Creates a broader definition of "news media" so that all types of news media, including smaller, non-traditional outlets, can obtain government documents at minimal cost.

Allows more individuals to recover attorneys' fees when they are on the winning side of litigation to get information from the government.

Tightens up time limits for government agencies to respond to FOIA requests.

Requires government agencies to implement a system that enables individuals to track their request for information.

Creates a new Office of Government Information Services to ensure that FOIA requests in all government agencies are promptly and thoroughly handled.

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