The Senate Judiciary Committee approved amendments to the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to make federal information available via the Internet and expand the number of existing public records online.
The bill would update the law, which turns 30 this year, and offers federal agency records to the public. Currently, it can take up to two years to provide information, according to statistics provided by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the main sponsor of the measure.
The passage of the bill would allow users who request information to receive it online in a timely manner. The current system has been criticized by journalists, consumer groups, and others who say that the process of getting information is often too lengthy to be useful.
To encourage timely delivery, the bill would allow agencies to collect half of the fees charged for such costs as labor and copying if they respond within a period of about 20 days.
The bill is supported by 23 organizations, including the American Library Association, Public Citizen, and press and civil liberties organizations.