Government Information Legislation
Activity during the 112th Congress:
The primary focus in the government information arena for the 112th Congress have been Freedom of Information and Whistleblower protections (found below). Other access issues of interest can be found here.
Freedom of Information Act
The Faster FOIA Act of 2011 (S. 1466), sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) was introduced on August 1, 2011 and was passed by unanimous consent the same day. The companion bill in the house (H.R. 1564) was introduced by Representative Brad Sherman (CA-27) on April 14, 2011; it was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and then to the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.
Both bills create a commission that is required to make recommendations to Congress and the President for reducing impediments to the processing of FOIA requests. While backlogs have presented a longstanding problem in agency implementation of the FOIA, the conditions and practices that create those backlogs are somewhat enigmatic. By undertaking a thorough study of the root causes of FOIA processing delays, and developing concrete recommendations, the commission will help agencies successfully implement President Obama's directive to reduce significant backlogs of outstanding FOIA requests. ALA supports these bills and will continue to follow them.
ALA supports “whistleblower” legislation to ensure the American public's "Right to Know," the cornerstone of government accountability and informed public participation.
- Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act of 2011, S. 241– Introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) with Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jim Webb (D-VA) on January 31, 2011. This bill would provide whistleblower protections for government contractors who provide information involving federal funds. The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.
- Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act of 2011, S. 586 – Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA) introduced S. 586 on March 15, 2011. This bill would apply whistleblower rights to congressional employees. The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
- The companion bill to S. 586 is Congress Leads by Example Act of 2011, H.R. 3108 introduced on October 24, 2011 by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and eleven sponsors. This bill would apply whistleblower rights to congressional employees.
There is currently a bill in the House and Senate that would overturn a harmful U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2006, Garcetti v. Ceballos, which ruled that the over 21 million public employees could not claim First Amendment rights when they voice concerns to their supervisors.
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011, S.743 was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-AK) with 14 cosponsors on April 6 and on October 19th it was reported favorably out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs with an amendment.
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011, H.R. 3289 was introduced by Representative Darrell Issa with five cosponsors on November 1st. The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on November 15, 2011.
Government Printing Office (GPO) Appropriations
The GPO was appropriated $126,200,000 with $35,000,000 of that amount for the Superintendent of Documents’ Salaries and Expenses. These monies will ensure that Congressional and other government information products will continue to be dispersed, primarily through the Federal Depository Library Program. The FDLP is responsible for the dissemination of congressional and other government publications to participating academic, research, public, federal, state and other libraries nationwide as well as millions of others via the Internet; with one of 1,219 depository libraries in almost every congressional district.
This amount is essential, in not only the success of the program but to support the continuation of the Federal Digital System (FDSys). FDSys is a digital content system that permits GPO to capture, provide access to and preserve government information from all three branches of government; a system that is essential as the federal government moves increasingly into the digital world. Information resources from approximately 130 federal departments and agencies, along with the courts, are available via GPO’s technology platform.
ALA will continue to support funding at the GPO, as an open and transparent government cannot survive without access to government information. The investment in systems and services to provide the public with government publications will ensure that valuable electronic government information created today will be discoverable, accessible, and preserved for future generations.
Please visit this page for further information on appropriations and federal funding.
To contact Congress on these issues, please visit the Legislative Action Center.