The Senate Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote legislation Thursday that would take steps toward improving executive branch Freedom of Information Act practices.
The Faster FOIA Act would create an advisory panel to study agency backlogs in handling FOIA requests. The bipartisan bill would direct the panel to provide Congress with suggestions for improving the FOIA process.
“I have said many times that open government is neither a Democratic issue, nor a Republican issue — it is truly an American value and virtue that we all must uphold,” panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the legislation is an “important step” toward improving the openness of federal agencies
“Citizens requesting public information should not be treated like nuisances or pests,” Cornyn said. “They should be treated like valued customers.”
Last month, the National Security Archive at The George Washington University ranked the Justice Department among the most transparent government agencies. But the DOJ processed fewer FOIA requests in fiscal 2009 than it did in 2008.