OPEN Government Act of 2007

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The OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S.849) —the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in Our National Government Act of 2007[1]—was introduced March 13, 2007, in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.).[2]

Contents

About S.849


Purpose

The Act is intended "To promote accessibility, accountability, openness in Government by strengthening section 552 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the Freedom of Information Act), and for other purposes." The Act is also referred to as the Freedom of Information Reform Act of 2007.[3]

"The bill contains more than a dozen substantive provisions designed to achieve the following four objectives:[4] (as stated)

  1. Strengthen FOIA and close loopholes
  2. Help FOIA requestors obtain timely responses to their requests
  3. Ensure that agencies have strong incentives to act on FOIA requests in a timely fashion
  4. Provide FOIA officials with all of the tools they need to ensure that our government remains open and accessible
Main article: U.S. congressional efforts to amend the Freedom of Information Act

Status: "secret hold"

In March 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar Act (H.R.1326: OPEN Government Act of 2007[5]).

On April 12, 2007, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary "unanimously passed" the Act and "sent the measure forward to the full Senate for a vote".[6] On April 30, 2007, the bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar (No. 127) under General Orders.[7]

However, "a senator or senators" placed the bill on "a secret hold"[8], in effect blocking the bill from reaching the Senate floor for a May 24, 2007, vote.[9]

On May 31, 2007, Sen. Kyl "revealed his identity ... days after the bill's backers launched an e-mail and telephone campaign, urging supporters to help in 'smoking out Senator Secrecy.' They pointed out the irony that an open government bill was being blocked using a rule that allowed secrecy."[10]

The Society of Professional Journalists used "the power of the blogosphere to find out[11] whose legislative bludgeon was buried in the back of open government", calling "every senator, one by one, until at last – when it became clear he could hide no longer – Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) came blinking and grimacing into the sunlight and admitted that it was he who placed a secret hold … on a bill that addresses secrecy in government."[12]

In a statement, Kyl said that "the Justice Department has 'uncharacteristically strong' objections to the bill" and that he would "block a vote until both sides can work out the differences."[13]

Charles N. Davis commented on the "secret hold" June 1, 2007, in The Politico:"[14]

"It’s a beauty – a real relic of the smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, the stuffed shirts and fat cats with stogies guffawing over the latest bamboozle of the taxpaying schmucks. Think country clubs, secret handshakes and bizarre rituals. ...
"This is how it works in Washington, kids: Sen. Kyl – this year’s Secrecy Champion – has several as-yet-unstated objections to the Freedom of Information Reform Act, a truly wonderful bill that would significantly improve one of the strongest tools Americans have to supervise the inner workings of government and to hold elected officials accountable."

Related legislation

Resources and articles

See also

References

  1. Text: S.849: OPEN Government Act of 2007, Thomas, March 13, 2007.
  2. News Release: "Cornyn Renews Effort To Strengthen Open Government. Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Freedom of Information Act," Office of Sen. John Cornyn, March 13, 2007.
  3. Text: S.849: OPEN Government Act of 2007, Thomas, March 13, 2007.
  4. News Release: "Senate Panel Approves Cornyn Bill To Expand Open Government. Bipartisan legislation to reform Freedom of Information Act moves to full Senate for consideration," Office of Sen. John Cornyn, April 12, 2007.
  5. Text: H.R.1326: OPEN Government Act of 2007, March 5, 2007.
  6. Mark Tapscott, "'Sen. Secrecy' Blocks Freedom of Information Reform Bill in Senate," Boston Examiner, May 27, 2007.
  7. S.849: OPEN Government Act of 2007 information, Thomas.
  8. Mark Tapscott, "'Sen. Secrecy' Blocks Freedom of Information Reform Bill in Senate," Boston Examiner, May 27, 2007.
  9. "The nation needs your help," Society of Professional Journalists, May 2007.
  10. "Kyl Draws Ire Of Open Government Backers. Sen. Jon Kyl's Vow To Block Open Government Measure Has Journalism Groups, Advocates Irate," Associated Press (CBS News), May 31, 2007.
  11. "The nation needs your help," Society of Professional Journalists, May 2007.
  12. Charles N. Davis, "Kyl secretly stops secrecy legislation," The Politico, June 1, 2007.
  13. "Kyl Draws Ire Of Open Government Backers. Sen. Jon Kyl's Vow To Block Open Government Measure Has Journalism Groups, Advocates Irate," Associated Press (CBS News), May 31, 2007.
  14. Charles N. Davis, "Kyl secretly stops secrecy legislation," The Politico, June 1, 2007.
  15. Text of H.R.1309: Freedom of Information Act Amendments, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, March 5, 2007,
  16. H.R.1309: Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007 information, Thomas.
  17. Text: H.R.1326: OPEN Government Act of 2007, March 5, 2007.

External resources

Documents

Background

Websites

External articles

2006

2007

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