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FOIA Update: FOIA Oversight Committeess Named

FOIA Update
Vol. II, No. 2

FOIA Oversight Committees Named

With the loss of Senate control by the Democrats and changes in the House, membership on the Congressional committees with FOIA oversight and responsibility has shifted in the 97th Congress.

Orrin Hatch of Utah heads the subcommittee on the Constitution, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, is ranking minority member. Other Republicans are Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Charles Grassley of Iowa. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is the other Democrat.

A second subcommittee which has conducted FOIA oversight hearings is the Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. David Durenberger of Minnesota is chairman and Jim Sasser of Tennessee is ranking minority member. Other Republicans are John Danforth of Missouri and Mack Mattingly of Georgia. Sam Nunn of Georgia is the other Democrat.

Rep. Glenn English of Oklahoma chairs the Government Information and Individual Rights Subcommittee, House Committee on Government Operations. Other Democrats are Henry Waxman of California, John L. Burton of California, Ted Weiss of New York, and Harold Washington of Illinois. Republican members are Thomas N. Kindness of Ohio, John Erlenborn of Illinois and Wendell Bailey of Missouri.

The 96th Congress enacted several laws which impact on or expand application of Freedom of Information Act.

One of the most far reaching may be the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-511). Administered by the Office of Management and Budget, the Paperwork Reduction Act is seen as a regulatory reform measure. Under it, the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will develop an Information Collection Budget which will limit the number of hours agencies can require that the public spend in filling out forms.

In addition, the Office will oversee and approve information collection requests by federal agencies and departments to determine if information is needed or duplicative and if collection methods are efficient.

An agency cannot collect information without obtaining an OMB control number and displaying it on the information form.

The Office's wide-ranging mission is to minimize the Federal paperwork burden and to oversee Federal statistical and records management activities, including automatic data processing and other technology; the privacy of records; and the interagency sharing of information.

Among the new public laws expanding Freedom of Information Act exemptions are the following:

• The Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-252) including sections safeguarding the line of business reports. In addition, all information submitted to the FTC in a law enforcement investigation may be withheld under FOIA.

• The Shippers' Export Declarations Law (P.L. 96-275) amending 13 U.S.C. § 301 to provide that Shippers' Export Declarations remain permanently confidential. A second section of P.L. 96-275 mandates standardized export data submissions and disclosure requirements for the U.S. Customs Service in an effort to provide information for the trade press.

• The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Appropriations Authorization Act (P.L. 96-295) contains a provision authorizing the Commission to promulgate regulations or issue orders to prohibit the unauthorized disclosure of information about nuclear security measures when disclosure could be expected to have an adverse effect on public health and safety.

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Updated August 13, 2014