Week ahead: 'Sunshine week' push for FOIA reform

The Senate backers of legislation to strengthen the government's open records laws are hoping to pass their bill on the floor in the coming week.

The Judiciary Committee passed a bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) early last year, but it has been blocked from getting unanimous approval because of a few Senate holdouts.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKey GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum Homeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report MORE (R-Ala.) told The Hill he is removing his year-long hold on the bill after Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDeal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate must approve Justice Served Act to achieve full potential of DNA evidence The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Texas), the lead sponsor, agreed to some changes to his bill. Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterSenate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn't say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly Planned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge MORE (R-La.) also had a short hold on the bill but it was removed days ago.

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An initial attempt to get the bill on the floor came last March. But the new scramble to lift the holds came ahead of "Sunshine Week," which starts on Monday and is meant to highlight the need for government transparency.

"Now is the time for Congress to enact improvements to FOIA that will enhance government transparency and accountability. It is our hope that this good government bill will pass the United States Senate without delay," the Sunshine in Government Initiative wrote in a letter to all senators. The group is made up of a number of press organizations.

Outside of the open records bill, it will be a busy week for the technology beat on both sides of the Capitol.

On Monday, the House Rules Committee will meet to discuss the process for moving the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act to the floor. The bill, which recently passed out of committee, exempts some small Internet service providers from transparency rules in the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality regulations. The House is looking to act on it quickly.

On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Republicans Commissioner Ajit Pai will talk about the agency's budget at a House Appropriations subcommittee. Later in the week, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will discuss recent steps the government's long-planned move to give up oversight of the Internet domain name system.

On the Senate side, the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing featuring Google to examine the future of self-driving cars. Representatives from Google, General Motors and Lyft will attend. A day later the committee will meet to mark up and approve a bill aimed at reauthorizing the FCC, something that hasn't happened in decades.

And, of course, there's South By Southwest Interactive. The Austin, Texas, tech festival begins on Friday, with a speech from President Obama, and will feature policymakers at events throughout the weekend. The conference and related events include sessions on everything from ICANN to encryption and feature several lawmakers. The conference ends Tuesday.

 

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--David McCabe contributed.