Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and John Cornyn (R-Tx) have introduced bipartisan FOIA amendments that incorporate a number of items meant to increase government transparency. Of note the legislation has a sunset for Exemption 5 withholdings of 25 years and a balancing test in the Exemption itself for otherwise exempt material. Here's a link to Leahy's press release with links to both the legislation and a fact sheet on the legislation.
Earlier this year the House passed its own FOIA amendments, which were different than the legislation introduced in the Senate.
Federal News Radio reports that a number of agency employees spoke at a Sunshine week event on March 18, 2014 about the FOIA bill that recently passed the House of Representatives. Negative comments were made about the FOIA portal implementation as well as the fact that the bill doesn't increase agency resources for FOIA. Interestingly, the provision that codifies the foreseeable harm standard did not seem to garner comments worthy of publiclity in the article.
The employees speaking were doing so in their personal capacities- there has been no official word for agency Legislative Affairs Office on the bill which would be the agencies official positon on the House bill.
According to Nextgov.com, the House of Representatives has passed legislation amending the FOIA. The Senate has no similar bill yet introduced.
If there is a bill introduced in the Senate, it would be nice to have some temporal limitations to Exemptions - such as a time limit on how long Exemption 5 material could be withheld (currently this material can be withheld forever). I'd also like to see some tweaks to the attorney fees provisions of the bill - this was amended a few years ago, but some settlements may not occur up because the money comes from the agencies and if they have no funds in their budgets to pay the fees they are forced to litigate even when they believe they should settle the case (and subject themselves to more fees down the road). I'd love to hear other ideas the Senate should add to the legislation.
According to FCW, the House of Representatives will take up legislating amending the FOIA. The bill has a number of elements, including the use of a centralized portal and giving the Office of Government Information Services more power in agency compliance with the FOIA. There is not a current bill pending in the Senate.
Some of the conferrees on the Farm Bill are back at it -- trying to create a huge hole in the FOIA by blocking the EPA from releasing any information it has collected on any owner, operator, or employee of a livestock operation (the language in the House-passed farm bill is even broader -- barring the release of information on agricultural operations as well as livestock operations). OpentheGovernment.Org has more on this attempt to block important information from being released to the public.
There may be a valid reason to not release information about small family farms, but the language in some of these proposals go way past that point and would create a huge Exemption 3 statute that blocks information that the public deserves to be known from being released via the FOIA.
Congress went into its summer recess without voting on H.R. 1211 which amends the FOIA in a number of ways. The bipartisan bill was reported out of committee but is awaiting a vote in the House -- details on the bill can be found here. If the bill is not acted upon before the end of this legislative session, it will likely be reintroduced at a future date. The Senate has not introduced a companion bill.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has introduced a bill that among other things makes the Smithsonian Institution subject to the FOIA. Making the systems of musuems subject to the FOIA has been the target of many bills for the last decade, none of which have been implemented.
The Farm Bill pending in the Senate now has a second amendment concerning the FOIA introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). This amendment does not automatically exempt all identifying information of certain types of farms like the language in the amendment introduced by Charles Grassley (R-IA). The Project on Government Oversight has this graphic which sets apart the differences in the two amendments. Further, the Rock River Times has this letter which explains why the Grassley amendment should be opposed by those who value government transparency.
POGO has this update on the Grassley Amendment to the Farm Bill. According to POGO, voting on the amendment was postponed before the Senate adjourned for Memoria Day, largely due to the intervention of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). The amendment will be taken up again after the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess in early June.