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The Act would also help FOIA requestors obtain timely responses by establishing a new FOIA hotline service to enable requestors to track the status of their requests. It would create a new FOIA om- budsman, located within the Administrative Conference of the United States, to review agency FOIA compliance and provide al- ternatives to litigation. And, it would authorize reasonable recovery of attorneys’ fees when litigation is inevitable.
This legislation would restore meaningful deadlines to agency ac- tion and restore—excuse me, impose real consequences on Federal agencies for missing statutory deadlines. It would enhance provi- sions in current law which authorize disciplinary action against government officials who arbitrarily and capriciously deny disclo- sure that have not been used in over 30 years. And, it will help identify agencies plagued by excessive delay.
Finally, the bill will help improve personnel policies for FOIA of- ficials, examine the need for FOIA awareness training for Federal employees, and determine the appropriate funding levels needed to ensure agency FOIA compliance.
The OPEN Government Act is not just pro-openness, pro-ac- countability, pro-accessibility, it is also pro-Internet. It requires government agencies to establish a hotline to enable citizens to track their FOIA requests, including Internet tracking. And, it grants the same privileged FOIA fee status currently enjoyed by traditional media outlets to bloggers and others who publish re- ports on the Internet.
As I have said, the OPEN Government Act is a product of months of extensive discussions between Senator Leahy’s office and mine, as well as numerous outside advocacy groups and watchdog groups. I am pleased that this bill is supported by a broad coalition of open government advocates and organizations across the ideolog- ical spectrum. It is really quite amazing, if you think about it, from the American Civil Liberties Union and the People for the Amer- ican Way to the Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Privacy and Technology Policy, the Heritage Foundation Center for Media and Public Policy, to people like my former colleague on the Supreme Court and the current Attorney General of Texas who is here with us today, Greg Abbott, and Greg, thank you for being here and showing your support and allowing Missy Cary to come testify here today.
Without objection, the letters of support that we have received from these numerous organizations and others will be made part of the record.
I am also pleased about recent positive comments that this legis- lation has received from the Department of Justice. I certainly un- derstand that no administration is ever excited about the idea of Congress increasing its administrative burdens and I look forward to any technical comments and expressions of concern that the ad- ministration may choose to provide. But, I do appreciate the Jus- tice Department’s own website that notes that this legislation, and I quote, ‘‘holds the possibility of leading to significant improve- ments in the Freedom of Information Act,’’ close quote. As Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and I discussed during his confirmation hearing in January, we plan to work together on ways to strength-
09:04 Nov 08, 2005