Monday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to send the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 to the White House is the culmination of a decade of work from a coalition of advocates to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill codifies a “presumption of openness,” strengthens the proactive disclosure of information in digital formats and the Office of Government Information Services, directs the White House to create software for creating requests, and requires all federal agencies to update their regulations.
The passage of the bipartisan bill was applauded on both sides of the aisle, as it should be: The path to any historic reform in Congress is a long and winding one, with fits, starts, disappointments, setbacks, frustration and, in the case of FOIA reform, secret opposition from agencies, financial interests and the Justice Department itself, followed by failure. Thankfully, we saw a different outcome in 2016. A C-SPAN video of statements on the House floor supporting the bill is embedded below.