Senate Panel Backs Easier Document Access

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The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send a bill to the Senate floor that would establish a 16-member panel that would recommend ways to speed freedom of information requests.

The panel voted unanimously to advance the "Faster FOIA Act," sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to the full Senate.

The legislation would establish a 16-member commission charged with recommending to Congress and the president steps to reduce delays in processing requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (search).

Co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill is one of several measures Congress is considering to improve government openness and accountability in an environment of national security concerns arising from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The two senators also have sponsored the so-called OPEN Government Act (search), which would establish an independent arbiter of freedom-of-information disputes with the government and make appeals for the release of information more fair and less expensive. That bill has yet to be considered by the committee.

The action comes during "Sunshine Week," (search) a campaign for government openness spearheaded by more than 50 media companies, journalism groups, universities and the American Library Association (search).