Freedom of Information Act Bills
Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, announces a public hearing on three bills related to the Freedom of Information Act. The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 at 11:00 A.M., in Room 500, of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
B19-166: The Open Government Act of 2011 would establish an Open Government Office (OGO) tasked with establishing uniform procedures for handling FOIA requests, a tracking system to identify FOIA requests and a review procedure that would determine whether an exemption applies to the request. This bill also gives the Open Government Office the authority to sue to agencies to enforce FOIA, issue advisory opinions, and subpoena witnesses. OGO and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer would be required to improve the existing website by developing a FOIA tracking system so the public can check the status of their information requests and view documents and other information made available to the public in past FOIA requests. The bill modifies exemptions from disclosure and provides stronger enforcement mechanisms for failures to disclose and requires each agency to draft an annual plan that outlines their efforts to comply with open meetings and records laws and to generally make the agency more transparent.
B19-714: The Freedom of Information Amendment Act of 2012 defines the term “Critical infrastructure,” which includes any existing or proposed systems and assets, physical or virtual, which could negatively affect security, economic security or public health/safety if incapacitated or destroyed. The bill would also bar from disclosure any records concerning “critical infrastructure.
B19-776: The Freedom of Information Act of 2012 amends the Administrative Procedure Act to give an agency 20 days to respond to a FOIA request with a decision to grant or deny the request. The 20 day period may be tolled by the agency if they make a maximum of one request to the requester for more information, or to clarify issues regarding the fee assessment. This bill would also allow the Superior Court to retain jurisdiction over FOIA requests and to extend response time in exceptional circumstances; broaden the exemption from disclosure for documents relating to ongoing law enforcement investigations; substitute disciplinary actions for criminal penalties for agency employees who are found to have improperly withheld requested documents; and authorizes the Open Government Office to conduct training and offer voluntary informal dispute resolution services as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation.
Individuals and representatives of organizations who wish to testify at the public hearing are asked to register online or contact Jordyne Blaise, Legislative Counsel to the Committee on Government Operations, at (202) 724-4902, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and furnish their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and organizational affiliation, if any, by the close of business Monday, July 9th, 2012. Persons presenting testimony may be limited to 3 minutes in order to permit each witness an opportunity to be heard.
If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements should be submitted to the Committee on Government Operations, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 113 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.