This week is Sunshine Week 2016, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Additionally, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
On September 13, 1976, President Ford signed S.5, the Government in the Sunshine Act. This act required multiheaded agencies, including independent regulatory agencies, to hold meetings open to the public unless any of 10 specific reasons for holding closed meetings is present. It also amended FOIA to narrow agencies’ authority to withhold information from the public.
“In a democracy the public has a right to know, not only what its government decides, but why and by what process,” President Ford said at the bill’s signing ceremony. “Today, many citizens feel that their government is too remote; that it is not responsive to their needs. This legislation should go a long way in reaffirming that government exists for the people, not apart from the people.”
Present for the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden were Congressman Jack Brooks, Senator William V. Roth, Senator Lawton Chiles (the bill’s sponsor), Congressman Dante B. Fascell, Senator Charles H. Percy, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Congressman Peter W. Rodino, Congressman Walter Flowers, Congressman George E. Danielson, Congressman Carlos J. Moorhead, Senator James B. Allen, Congressman Frank Horton, and Congressman John N. Erlenborn.
To learn more about Sunshine Week