In case you missed it amid the holiday bustle, there was a major victory for access advocates on the federal level last month. Congress passed the OPEN Government Act and, on New Year’s Eve, President Bush signed it into law. The law implements important reforms to the Freedom of Information Act, including, among things, an access ombudsman for citizens and penalties for agencies that fail to comply.

Here is the White House press release announcing President Bush’s signing of the act:

On Monday, December 31, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 2488, the “Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007,” which amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by: (1) establishing a definition of “a representative of the news media;” (2) directing that required attorney fees be paid from an agency’s own appropriation rather than from the Judgment Fund; (3) prohibiting an agency from assessing certain fees if it fails to comply with FOIA deadlines; and (4) establishing an Office of Government Information Services in the National Archives and Records Administration to review agency compliance with FOIA.

You can read a story about the new law from Cox Newspapers “The Secrecy File” blog here.