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Senator puts hold on widely supported FOIA bill

A bill designed to improve the way the federal government handles an increasing load of FOIA requests – a bill that had gained bipartisan support – could be dying after a senator blocked the legislation.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 would "create a pathway for the federal government to modernize the administration of FOIA" and "codify the 'presumption of openness' into law," among other changes detailed in a post by Alexander Howard on PBS’ MediaShift.

Retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Thursday placed a hold on the bill. He released a short statement on his decision Friday, saying that the bill might "have the unintended consequence of harming our ability to enforce the many important federal laws that protect American consumers from financial fraud and other abuses."

Rockefeller has until the end of Monday to release the hold, or the FOIA bill dies.

As Howard noted, the bill had already been reworked in order to gain more widespread support and earn passage during Congress' current lame duck session. It had appeared that the changes had worked.

"While it’s still possible that a powerful senator may try to keep this bill from passing, the prospects look good today," Howard wrote two weeks ago.

With Rockefeller’s hold, those prospects turned grim.

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