A bill recently unveiled in the house by Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Todd Russell Platts (R-PA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA) would drastically change the way that citizens use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) if passed.
The bill, HR-1309 for those interested, would create a much greater deal of transparency within the request process. The addition of a tracking system and a time frame requirement for requests gives citizens significantly more ability to keep track of their requests, and will allow for a more meaningful audit process should a request be lost. Additionally, if a request is not completed within 20 days, it becomes free of charge to the requester.
Additionally, the bill would create a new office tasked with the handling of denied requests. This office would also be geared to help the government avoid litigation, though details of this are a little slim so far.
More interestingly, the bill would make private contractors' records subject to FOIA requirements, and would allow a much broader cross section of journalists access to discounts on requests.
All in all, this bill would be the most significant change to the FOIA since its inception, and would provide for a much needed additional layer of transparency to the government and its contractors. Here's to hoping that this makes the audit process much more successful and harder to stonewall.
Rep William Clay on Govtrack.us