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Smith Continues Efforts to Open Up Government

Location: Washington, DC

Smith Continues Efforts to Open Up Government
April 13, 2005

Washington, DC - Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Brad Sherman (D?CA) introduced the Faster FOIA Act today as part of their ongoing effort to make government information more accessible to the American people. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D?VT) are the bill's sponsors in the Senate.

"American citizens should have the opportunity to quickly and easily obtain information from the federal government. This promotes a responsive democracy," Smith noted.

The Faster FOIA Act establishes a 16-member commission that recommends to Congress and the President ways to reduce delays in processing requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

"The Freedom of Information Act created a system for the public to access government records. Unfortunately, the process for obtaining such information is overly burdensome and federal agencies have become less and less responsive to citizen's requests. This deters citizens from seeking information to which they are entitled," Smith said. "The Faster FOIA Act removes unnecessary delays in the FOIA process."

The Act augments legislation introduced by Smith earlier this year to strengthen the FOIA. Known as the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act or OPEN Government Act, it reinforces existing FOIA provisions and creates strong incentives for federal agencies to comply with the law.

The OPEN Government Act:

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

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

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

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

- 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.

"Modernizing FOIA ensures that government remains open and accountable to the people," Smith concluded.

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