Bi-Partisan Effort Underway to Reform FOIA
July 11, 2019
Senators from across the aisle have criticized recent changes to the Freedom of Information Act and vow to introduce legislation to reform the FOIA. In Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, the Supreme Court recently narrowed public access to government records. A few days later, the Environmental Protection Agency changed its FOIA regulations without a public comment opportunity. The EPA's changes are similar to the Department of the Interior's "awareness review" that allows political appointees to decide whether to withhold information and issue a misleading "no records" response. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are both considering legislation in response. Senator Grassley stated, "[the] recent Supreme Court ruling and even new regulations in the EPA and the Department of Interior are undermining access to public information. . . Americans deserve an accountable government, and transparency leads to accountability." EPIC wrote an amicus brief in Food Marketing Institute, warning the Court that a change in the FOIA "would deprive the public, and government watchdogs such as EPIC, of access to important information about 'what the government is up to.'" EPIC frequently uses the FOIA to promote government oversight.