Freedom of Information Act Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis

Source: Wendy Ginsberg, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43924, April 21, 2016

Congress is currently considering legislation that would make substantive changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA was originally enacted in 1966 and has been amended numerous times since —most recently in 2009. FOIA provides the public with a presumptive right to access agency records, limited by nine exemptions that allow agencies to withhold certain types or categories of records.

The legislation under consideration in the 114th Congress, S. 337 and H.R. 653, is largely based on bills from the 113th Congress, S. 2520 and H.R. 1211. Both of the bills in the current Congress seek to amend a number of provisions of FOIA for the purpose of increasing public access —including improving electronic accessibility of agency records, clarifying the right to request information related to intra- and inter-agency memoranda or letters, standardizing the use of search and duplication fees by agencies, and requiring agencies to notify requestors of the status of their requests and of the availability of dispute resolution processes for requests that they believe have been inappropriately denied. Both bills would also create a Chief FOIA Officers Council, responsible for informing government-wide FOIA administrators of best practices, and would establish new FOIA-related oversight responsibilities and reporting requirements. ….

…..This report provides a side-by-side comparison of the bills, using the versions that have passed each of their originating congressional chambers. The report also provides context related to bill amendments and language additions that occurred between bill versions, when applicable. Finally, the report provides analysis of certain provisions of the bills. …..