A bill in the Minnesota legislature would allow government agencies to post official notices on their web sites instead of in newspapers and would require a "permanent record" of publications to be "maintained." Included would be publication of transportation projects, proceedings, official notices, and summaries of meetings. The bill apparently does not designate who will preserve the information nor does it specify how to preserve the information except for the caveat that the records must be in "a form accessible by the public."
- H.F. No. 1286, as introduced - 88th Legislative Session (2013-2014) Posted on Mar 05, 2013.
Subd. 4. Record retention. A political subdivision that publishes notice on its Web site under this section must ensure that a permanent record of publication is maintained in a form accessible by the public.
We would, of course, like to see a bit more detail of the implementation, perhaps even including requirements for deposit of records in a Trusted Repository, provisions for discovery, access, use, and bulk download, and, ideally, a state-law-compliant deposit into libraries.
One section of the bill does specify that print copies of "documents" published on the web must be made available at all public libraries within the jurisdiction. This is not a bad requirement, but it does seem to us to be short-sighted to require deposit of paper copies and not require deposit of digital copies. Libraries could provide enhanced access and service over what the government could provide and could provide redundant digital preservation.
Subd. 5. Print copies. When a political subdivision publishes exclusively on the Web site, it must also make print copies of all published documents available at the main office of the political subdivision, any other government offices designated by the political subdivision, all public libraries within the jurisdiction, and by mail upon request.
Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks testified before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations on Feb 26, 2013. She discussed the potential impact of the upcoming sequester scheduled for March 1, the results of the recent National Academy of Public Administration study of GPO, and GPO's appropriations request for FY 2014, which will be submitted to the House and Senate later this week. The GPO press release about the testimony does not mention the NAPA recommendation to charge fees for access to FDsys (see NAPA releases report on GPO).
Excerpt from press release, emphasis added:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2013
ACTING PUBLIC PRINTER TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
WASHINGTON - Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks testified before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations today, discussing the potential impact of the upcoming sequester scheduled for March 1, the results of the recent National Academy of Public Administration study of GPO, and GPO's appropriations request for FY 2014, which will be submitted to the House and Senate later this week.
Under the sequester, GPO will see its appropriations cut by 5.3%, or approximately $6.7 million, which will affect the agency's statutory and essential functions. To offset the cut, GPO's plan is to freeze hiring, overtime, performance awards, outside training, administrative travel, and nonessential maintenance and repairs. GPO may also face a decrease in revenue from Federal agency customers who order less printing and other information services due to the impact of sequester on their budget. The extent of this revenue impact is unknown at this time. To offset it, GPO will cut back on technology and other investments, which would delay the development of digital products and services, such as mobile apps for Congress and Federal agencies, as well as other technology upgrades and projects to improve public access to Government information. If necessary, a furlough of GPO's workforce may also be implemented.
The recent study of GPO by the National Academy of Public Administration underscores the value of GPO's products and services in Keeping America Informed, and makes useful recommendations to better position the Federal Government in the digital era, strengthen GPO's business model, and build the GPO of the future. Vance-Cooks voiced support for the recommendations and said the agency is already at work on them. For FY 2014, GPO plans to request $128.5 million, a 1.2% increase over the funding currently provided for FY 2013. The request includes a decrease of $11.5 million in congressional printing costs and an increase of $12.4 million in investments for continued growth for GPO's digital systems and investments.
"Regardless of budget constraints, GPO is committed to serving as the digital information platform and provider of secure credentials for the Federal Government," said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks. "GPO is prepared to make the necessary cutbacks in order to continue to carry out its mission of Keeping America Informed."
Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation has a must-read post about the Government Printing Office, the Joint Committee on Printing, and The Statutes at Large:
GPO is Closing Gap on Public Access to Law at JCP's Direction, But Much Work Remains, by Daniel Schuman, The Sunlight Foundation (Feb. 19, 2013).
The GPO's recent electronic publication of all legislation enacted by Congress from 1951-2009 is noteworthy for several reasons. It makes available nearly 40 years of lawmaking that wasn't previously available online from any official source, narrowing part of a much larger information gap. It meets one of three long-standing directives from Congress's Joint Committee on Printing regarding public access to important legislative information. And it has published the information in a way that provides a platform for third-party providers to cleverly make use of the information. While more work is still needed to make important legislative information available to the public, this online release is a useful step in the right direction.
From a press release from GPO:
President Obama’s State Of The Union Address Available On Gpo’s Federal Digital System
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) makes President Barack Obama's State of the Union address available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The public can access the President’s address in the Congressional Record, which is the official publication of the U.S. Congress.
Direct link to address: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2013-02-12/html/CREC-2013-02-12-pt1-Pg...
This site is a centralized federal resource for Smart Disclosure. Here you will find hundreds of government datasets that can help enable consumer choice; apps that demonstrate the power of Smart Disclosure; challenges for app developers; and resources to learn more about Smart Disclosure.
- Consumer.Data.Gov is Live!, by Sophie Raseman and Nick Sinai, whitehouse.gov (February 11, 2013).
The Community announced today is a first-of-its-kind centralized platform containing over 400 smart disclosure data sets and resources from dozens of agencies across government. Using the Community, entrepreneurs and innovators can access free Federal data to create the consumer applications, products, and services of the future -- all in one convenient location.
The Government Printing Office has joined the social networking site Pinterest that "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things."
The GPO press release says:
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) expands its social media presence by joining Pinterest. Connecting people through 'things' they find interesting is the founding principle of Pinterest and a natural fit with GPO's core mission of Keeping America Informed on the three branches of the Federal Government. GPO will use Pinterest to share historic photos, videos, products, and Government publications with the public. Pinterest joins GPO's other social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Government Book Talk blog.
Link to GPO's Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/usgpo/
"GPO is constantly evolving and keeping up-to-date on public trends and the popular ways to access and share information," said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks. "GPO's expansion of social media supports our mission of Keeping America Informed. Joining Pinterest is one more way GPO can engage the public and continue to serve as the official link between the Federal Government and public."
Gregorio Sablan (D), rep of the Northern Mariana Islands has introduced into the House H.R.429, Northern Mariana Islands Federal Depository Library Act of 2013 which would amend Section 1905 of title 44 to permit the Delegate from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to designate Federal depository libraries.
The National Academy Of Public Administration has released its report on the Government Printing Office.
- Rebooting The Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age, A Report by a Panel of the National Academy Of Public Administration for the U.S. Congress, Congressional Research Service, and the Government Printing Office. National Academy Of Public Administration, Washington, DC (January 2013).
Congress mandated that the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) conduct a broad operational review of GPO. The Academy formed a five-member Panel of Fellows to conduct a ten-month study of the agency’s current role, its operations, and its future direction.
The report contains 27 finding and 15 recommendations. Depository libraries will be particularly interested in three findings:
- III-3: Preservation of the Legacy (Tangible) Government Collection
- III-4: Preservation of the Digital Government Collection
- III-5: Government Information Dissemination and Access
The report repeats many of the tropes about the digital government information that have become familiar over the years. Some of these bear repeating and others are more questionable.
Perhaps the most troubling suggestion in the report is GPO should consider "cost recovery" for access to FDsys:
Now may be the time for GPO to revisit charging the public for access to FDsys content. The Academy convened a forum of experts on printing and publishing where this topic was discussed extensively. Participants noted that technologies for online payments have progressed to the point that they cost very little to administer. Also, the public is becoming accustomed to paying fees for government services that used to be free (such as admittance to National Parks). Rather than charge a publication price, GPO could explore charging a small user fee to recoup the cost of providing access to government information on FDsys, or allowing users to view documents for free, and charging for document downloads. Forum participants also discussed the possibility of GPO exploring opportunities for repackaging files and content in different ways and making them available for sale to the public.
This model (as the report notes) was tried before with GPO Access and failed. We would argue that it failed not because the "technologies of online payments" were inadequate at the time, but because attempting to charge fees for information that was also available without fees was a fundamentally flawed approach. (We have written about this issue many times. See for example: Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program and Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP.)
There is much more in the report and it deserves careful scrutiny.
Access to Court Opinions Expands. Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (January 31, 2013).
A pilot project giving the public free, text-searchable, online-access to court opinions now is available to all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
The Judicial Conference, the policy-making body of the Federal court system, approved national implementation of the project with the Government Printing Office, Federal Digital System (FDsys), which provides free access to publications from all three branches of federal government via the Internet. The pilot project pulls opinions nightly from courts’ Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) systems and sends them to the GPO, where they are processed and posted on the FDsys website. The functionality to transfer opinions to FDsys is included in the latest release of CM/ECF which is now available to all courts. Twenty-nine courts participated in the original pilot, and now, all courts may opt to participate in the program.
Access to judicial opinions through FDsys allows the Judiciary to make its work more easily available to the public. Collections are divided into appellate, district or bankruptcy court opinions and are text-searchable across opinions and across courts. FDsys also permits embedded animation and audio.
Presently, more than 600,000 opinions dating back to 2004 are available. Opinions from the pilot are already one of the most heavily used collections on FDsys, with millions of retrievals each month.
Steve Schultze, Princeton University, Associate Director at the Center for Information Technology Policy, gave this talk as part of a series of 3-minute lightning talks on transparency hosted on Capitol Hill by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the Sunlight Foundation.
- My Bill to #OpenPACER in memory of #aaronsw -- Open for Comment and Available on Github, by Steve Schultze. Freedom to Tinker (February 1, 2013). (video and transcript with links and downloadable slides).
...the courts offer electronic records through the PACER web site, which charges for search results, docket lists, and documents.
...PACER is making a killing, with $120 million dollars in revenue for 2012. Even with a highly inefficient system architecture, they only manage to spend about $20 million dollars on PACER expenses per year. Where does the rest of the money go? They spend it on other stuff.
This is illegal. In 1992, Congress passed a law saying that the courts could charge only to recoup costs. Ten years later, Congress strengthened that law and said that it expected the courts to move to a free system. PACER fees have increased 42% since then.
...Open PACER is a bill that, once and for all, mandates that the courts provide free access to our public record. The bill is open for comment at openpacer.org. It is written in GPO-compliant Legislative XML, which anyone can edit and submit for incorporation via a tool called github.