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Council Takes Up Bill To Speed FOIA Requests, Appeals

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By Peter Granitz

The D.C. Council is set to take up a measure that could make it easier for the public to access government information. Open government advocates hope the bill will speed up a process that can take years.

Councilmember Mary Cheh, the bill’s sponsor, says the District has failed to carry out existing freedom of information laws, so she wants to create an entirely new government agency to enforce them.

William Mulhauser is with the local ACLU and supports the plan. He wants to ensure the new agency will have the authority to force compliance. He says, under the current system, you can win an appeal and still not get what you want.

"That’s another problem with the process," says Mulhauser, "that the mayor’s office then directs the agency to comply, and that can take months or years too."

The bill is called the Open Government Act, which might explain why no one spoke out against it at today’s public hearing.

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