Leahy gains support for Freedom of Information Act update

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(Host) Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has gotten more support for his proposal to strengthen the federal law that protects the public’s right-to-know. Over the weekend he reached an agreement with Republican Senate opponents.

But the legislation still needs approval from the President.

Sara Sciammacco has more from Washington.

(Sciammacco) Since he took office Senator Leahy has pushed to make the government more open. Leahy says people ought to have better access to government records.

He is proposing to update the Freedom of Information Act.

(Leahy) "It makes it possible for people to know what are government is doing."

(Sciammacco) Under Leahy’s proposal, federal agencies would have to meet stricter deadlines to get information out.

He says people wait for weeks sometimes months to get what they want.

(Leahy) "Of course the time passes and the time passes and nothing you can do about it. This bill will make sure you a chance to really enforce those deadlines."

(Sciammacco) The bill also creates a hotline for people to track their requests.

Barbara Cochran of the Radio and Television News Directors Association says the legislation is good for journalists and the public.

(Cochran) "It makes government records so much more accessible. It is much more efficient and makes it much easier for citizens to navigate."

(Sciammacco) The House and Senate plan to work out their differences about the 40 year old law when they return from August recess.

President Bush opposed an early draft of the proposal it is unclear if he will support the new version.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Sara Sciammacco on Capitol Hill.

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