The Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004 

Re: Strike the “Freedom of Information Clarification Amendment Act of 2019” from the Budget Support Act!

Dear Chairman Phil Mendelson,
Councilmember Charles Allen,
Councilmember Anita Bonds,
Councilmember Mary M. Cheh,
Councilmember Jack Evans,
Councilmember Vincent C. Gray,
Councilmember David Grosso,
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie,
Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau,
Councilmember Elissa Silverman,
Councilmember Brandon T. Todd,
Councilmember Robert White, Jr.,
and Councilmember Trayon White, Sr:

The undersigned organizations and concerned community members write to urge you to remove the “Freedom of Information Clarification Amendment Act of 2019” from the Budget Support Act that the Council will vote on tomorrow.

We are alarmed by the proposal to significantly alter the FOIA law through such a non-transparent process. Changes of this magnitude merit a full public hearing and markup, by including them in a standalone bill subject to the Council’s regular legislative process.

D.C. FOIA and open government laws are critical components of protecting democratic institutions and ensuring government transparency and accountability. In the last few years alone, FOIA requests have helped uncover several instances of significant government misconduct and performance problems, including:

Since learning of the proposed changes to the D.C. FOIA last week, journalists, civil rights organizations, and open government groups have all raised significant concerns about the many ways that these amendments would obstruct the public’s access to information about how our government operates.

Still, many other of your constituents have not had a chance to weigh in.

Additionally, it was apparent from the Council’s discussion of these amendments at its budget working session on May 8, 2019 that Councilmembers themselves are unclear about both the scope of the amendments and their potential consequences, whether intended or unintended.  

Including such sweeping changes as part of the Budget Support Act when they are not germane to the budget, and without proper vetting by both Councilmembers and the public, constitutes an abuse of legislative power and would severely diminish trust in the Council’s commitment to open government.

As such, we respectfully request that these changes be removed from the BSA. 

Sincerely,

  1. ACLU of the District of Columbia
  2. Advocates for Justice and Education
  3. American Society of News Editors
  4. Associated Press Media Editors
  5. Association of Research Libraries
  6. Black Lives Matter DC
  7. Campaign for Accountability
  8. Children’s Law Center
  9. Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
  10. DC Environmental Network
  11. DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  12. DC for Democracy
  13. D.C. Hunger Solutions
  14. DC Jobs With Justice
  15. DC KinCare Alliance
  16. DC Statehood Green Party
  17. Defending Rights & Dissent
  18. Earthjustice
  19. Eduardo Ferrer, Policy Director, Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative
  20. Empower DC
  21. Fair Budget Coalition
  22. Human Rights Defense Center
  23. James P. Ogilvy, Director of Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project, Columbus School of Law (for identification purposes only)
  24. Jessica Steinberg, Associate Professor of Law, Director of Prisoner & Reentry Network, GWU Law School
  25. Jewish Voice for Peace DC Metro
  26. Jews United for Justice
  27. Justice for Muslims Collective
  28. Law 4 Black Lives DC
  29. Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
  30. Legal Counsel for the Elderly
  31. Matt Fraidin, Associate Dean of Experiential Education,* Professor of Law, UDC David A. Clarke Law School (for identification purposes only; does not indicate endorsement by University)
  32. National Freedom of Information Coalition
  33. Open the Government
  34. Positive Force DC
  35. Public Citizen
  36. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
  37. School Justice Project
  38. Sierra Club DC Chapter
  39. Stop Police Terror Project DC
  40. Southeast Ministry DC
  41. SURJ DC
  42. Tzedek DC
  43. UNITE HERE Local 25
  44. Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
  45. Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
  46. We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
  47. Whitman-Walker Health

Stay informed

ACLU of the District of Columbia is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National