Many of us are familiar with the Freedom of Information Act, also known as FOIA. In the age of the internet, having government agencies provide information following written requests is no longer sufficient. Representative Steve Israel has introduced new legislation called The Public Online Information Act. POIA requires agencies within the Executive Branch to publish all public information on the internet in a timely manner and user friendly fashion. POIA also creates a federal advisory committe to help develop internet disclosure policies that would be effective throughout the government. Members of this committe would be selected from each branch of the government as well as from both private and public sectors.
POIA would allow agencies time to prepare for the enforcement of this legislation by requiring online publication of public records three years after POIA is enacted. Furthermore, only public records that are generated, updated or released after the enactment of POIA would be covered under this legislation. Exceptions to publication online of public documents may still be found, similar to those under the FOIA legislation. However, if a document is deemed to be exempt under this legislation, a redacted version of the document must be published.
The Free Public Records Directory applauds this legislation as it moves forward access to public information. Making information available online is necessary to promote the free and easy public access that most of us would like to see. We wish the bill would apply to all records, but even starting with current ones and moving forward is a step in the right direction.