ALA urges Senate Leadership to schedule vote on OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S.849)

Contact: Andy Bridges

Communications Specialist

For Immediate Release
June 1, 2007

ALA urges Senate Leadership to schedule vote on

OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S.849)

WASHINGTON — The American Library Association (ALA) has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to support the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (S. 849), and to support bringing this important open government bill to the floor in early June.

Yesterday, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), who had previously remained anonymous, identified himself as the Member responsible for placing a hold on the bill and preventing it from being scheduled. In defending his hold, Sen. Kyl cited Justice Department concerns regarding the release of sensitive information. However, there are numerous exceptions within the original Freedom of Information Act passed in 1966 (most would argue too many) that allow sensitive government information to be withheld from disclosure.

The OPEN Government Act has received bipartisan support in the Senate, and the House passed a companion bill, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Amendments of 2007 (H.R. 1309), on March 15, 2007, by a substantial margin of 308 to 117.

The ALA -- which joined over 100 business, public interest, and historical associations to endorse S. 849 -- has a long-standing commitment to open public access to information created by our government, in order to ensure accountability and informed public participation.

“We are urging Senate Leadership to move on this important bipartisan, good government legislation,” stated ALA President Leslie Burger, “which includes enforcement and incentive mechanisms to strengthen FOIA, a key component in ensuring accountability in government.”

“This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike can and should work together to enact,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, one of the bill's cosponsors, “. . . open government is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is an American issue.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations, recently urged support of S.849 (PDF).

The OPEN Government Act is the result of the bipartisan efforts of Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), both sponsors of the bill that includes reforms to reduce backlogs, delays, and restrictions in responding to FOIA requests; provides incentives for agency compliance; and, in general, strengthens the Freedom of Information Act, ensuring openness and accountability from federal agencies.