Senate Bill Would Require Public Records Be Published Online

A test bill in the U.S. Senate would mandate that federal government publish all public records on the internet.

The proposed bill does not change what is classified as public records, it just requires agencies to post those records online that they are already responsible for.

The bill would provide faster access to public records at little or no cost. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jon Tester, says it would eliminate the need for people to search stored print documents and the long wait for a public record requests to be completed.

Exceptions to what records could be posted online would be determined by current Freedom of Information Act rules. Such records currently include classified military documents, investigation records for law enforcement and personnel records. Restricted records would be kept off the Internet or be redacted to meet FOIA standards.

More federal departments and agencies are already putting their public records on the Internet.

First Amendment attorney Mike Meloy, thinks the bill could pave the way for an online directory of government records. A searchable federal records directory could reveal public information that people didn’t even know existed.

Under the bill, only executive branch agencies would be required to post public records online.

Legislative and judicial branches would get recommendations from a public records advisory board, but they would not be required to act on them.

Critics say this is one of the bill’s shortcomings, noting that Congress routinely tries to exempt itself from Freedom of Information Act mandates.

[ Source: ]