When Senator John Cornyn isn't busy making sure the Prez can torture anyone he wants, he's doing some good stuff for government transparency.
Along with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Cornyn sponsored the OPEN Government Act, a bill designed to increase the flow of information between government and regular ol' folks. The bill made it out of committee yesterday and probably won't reach the full Senate until next session, but the momentum, as they say, is building.
The Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act — gee, you think they came up with the acronym first? —makes several notable changes to the Freedom of Information Act, a little number written in 1966 that's probably one of our most favorite pieces of legislation ever.
After all, we're big fans of information.
Cornyn's bill closes some loopholes, insuring that FOIA applies even when recordkeeping has been outsourced — look out, Halliburton — and opens up fee waivers for all legitimate journalists, including bloggers. It also increases the penalties when government agencies don't want to give up the goods.
Here's what Cornyn said in a release:
The OPEN Government Act will greatly increase the public's access to government information and records, and I applaud the committee for moving it forward.
This bill will help citizens obtain timely responses to requests, provide strong incentives for government agencies to act on requests in a timely manner, and provide FOIA officials the tools they need to ensure the openness of our government for the people it represents. Achieving the true consent of the governed requires informed consent, and such consent is possible only with an open and accessible government.
Open government is one of the most basic requirements of any healthy democracy. It allows for taxpayers to see where their money is going; it permits the honest exchange of information that ensures government accountability; and it upholds the ideal that government should not rule without the consent of the governed.
Sure, he might've just spit out a bunch of truisms, but in this age of secrecy, we'll take anything we can get. — Keith Plocek
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