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Senate Judiciary Committee approves bill to speed FOIA compliance

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] approved the OPEN Government Act [S 394 summary] Thursday, a bill that would punish federal agencies that fail to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [DOJ materials] in a timely manner. The bill would give federal agencies 20 days to determine whether to comply with the FOIA request for records and would require agencies to provide tracking numbers for checking on the status of the request.

The bill was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) [official website] and a group of other senators in response to complaints that FOIA requests take months or years to be answered or rejected and large portions of the results are commonly blacked out. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the US Air Force has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating FOIA requirements and the Defense Department was separately ordered to expedite processing of FOIA requests [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

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