- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Both Republican and Democrat are motivated by concern about public trust - and efficiency. Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland - also a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform - have introduced legislation to shore up the Freedom of Information Act, simply known as “FOIA” among journalists seeking information. The FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 would “establish a presumption of openness” in America, while improving electronic accessibility for pertinent information, the lawmakers say.

“At a time when the American people’s trust in the federal government is at an all-time low, we must strengthen and refine our laws that enable transparency and openness in government,” says Mr.Issa. “Requests through the Freedom of Information Act remain the best tool for the American people to hold their government accountable. In this information technology driven era, it should be easier, not harder for citizens to have simpler and broader access to government information.”

And from Mr. Cummings: “This bipartisan legislation will strengthen one of our most critical open government laws by bringing greater sunlight to federal agency actions. There should be a presumption of openness in this country, and agencies should have to justify their actions when they want to withhold information from the American people.”

Under the act, an agency could only withhold information if it reasonably foresees that disclosure would cause specific identifiable harm. The bill also places the burden on the agency to demonstrate why information is withheld and requires the agencies to post frequently requested information. It also would establishes a single online portal for all those FOIA requesters in press and public.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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