CRS has a new report that outlines the historical tension between secrecy and transparency in the congressional process and identifies various closed door lawmaking activities and more.
- Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective On Secrecy and Transparency, by Walter J. Oleszek, Congressional Research Service, R42108 (November 30, 2011).
Hat tip to Sabrina I. Pacifici!
Legislation that would require copies of congressionally mandated reports to be published online by GPO cleared a major hurdle when it unanimously passed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at a business meeting on Wednesday. The "Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act," introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley and joined by 12 co-sponsors, will now advance to the floor of the House of Representatives.
"Access to Congressionally Advances to the House Floor" by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (June 23, 2011).
This was just tweeted by the folks at the Sunlight Foundation and I thought the infographic was really sweet:
The graphic above (see full size here) was one of the winners in the Sunlight Foundation's recent Design for America contest. There's also an excellent guide to the Senate rules, and a brilliant, user-friendly redesign of the IRS website. You can see all the winners here.
Thanks Mike Wirth for the killer infographic and thanks Sunlight Foundation for a well done Design for America contest!
Net neutrality is again in the news. John McCain has just come out with the oxymoronic S. 1836 "Internet Freedom Act" (as opposed to Representative Markey's H.R. 3458 "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009"). The bill's actual title is "A bill to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet." This is wrong for so many reasons. Net neutrality is the core tenet upon which the internet was built (all packets created equal!"). So in other words the FCC's proposed net neutrality regulations (and remember, the FCC has regulated every form of media communication in the 20th century!) will actually protect the non-regulation of internet traffic from telcos and ISPs who would like to turn the internet into a toll road.
The Sunlight Foundation's Real Time Investigations points out that telecom companies worried about net neutrality have been spreading a lot of $$ around DC and the #1 recipient of their largesse is Senator McCain, the self-professed technological "illiterate", who, took in $894,379.
But don't take my word for it, listen to Xeni Jardin and Jon Stewart describe the silliness of McCain's "Internet Freedom Act":
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|From Here to Neutrality|
Our friends at Open Congress recently provided a concrete example of the benefit of being able to work with government provided data. In a July 1, 2009 blog posting titled See all the Last-Minute Changes to the Climate Change Bill blogger Donny Shaw notes:
We may never get the details of the back-room negotiating that took place leading up to the bill’s passage in the House on Friday, but with OpenCongress’s legislative versioning tool we can see exactly what was changed in the bill in the process and then start to figure out why. Just go to the text of the bill as passed by the House and select “Show Changes.” You can scan the entire bill and see, with color-coded text, exactly what was changed – red, stuck-out text denoting changed or removed sections in the bill, and green text denoting sections that were inserted or modified.
Donny spent about 30 minutes scanning through the bill's changes and documented what he found. What can you find?
This sort of quick work at finding rush changes is only possible because copyright-free federal legislation is available to transparency organizations like OpenCongress to put into their change revision software. This gives regular citizens specialized access to legislation that was formerly only available to subscribers to expensive premium services. This is a good thing. The Government Printing Office's talks with the Library of Congress about bulk distribution of legislative data will only make things easier.
Recovery.gov is back up. This time, it has many more features. It is a website that, according to the website:
Lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you'll be able to see where it's going -- to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we'll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.
You can read a full copy of the bill, share your recovery story, and learn more about the President's accountability & transparency objectives. And check out the "Where is Your Money Going"? page for a simple visual representation.
A juicy tidbit of info over at the Sunlight Blog and ABC News: Stimulus Bill to go Web 2.0?
They’re planning a Google-like search function to show every program funded by the stimulus package, whether it comes in under or over-budget, whether it is meeting its intended purpose, and how many jobs it is creating.
Sounds interesting! Let's hope they follow through.
The American Library Association Government Documents Roundtable (ALA GODORT) wants YOU to participate in this year's virtual National Library Legislative day. Here are details from GODORT chair Bill Sleeman:
May 13th and 14th is National Library Legislative day and GODORT is participating as an organization. This is a first for us and is the first time that an ALA unit has attempted to coordinate all of its members to participate. It is made easier this year by ALA's effort to offer a virtual participation option.
We need your participation, libraries need you.
To take part will only require a bit of your time - GODORT has done much of the initial work for you. The Government Documents Round Table's Legislation Committee has created four handouts that address legislative issues of concern to our community. These include:
1. S. 2321: E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007
2. H.R. 1255; S. 886: Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007
3. Senate Resolution 401: A resolution to provide Internet access to certain Congressional Research Service publications
4. Government Printing Office 2009 Budget Request
5. National Agriculture Library funding
We are asking you to please visit the GODORT Legislation committee Wiki at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/Virtual_Library_Legislative_Day_Activities download the talking points and background materials, and to please on either Tuesday, May 13th or on Wednesday, May 14th contact your legislators and let them know how these services will affect your ability to serve their constituents.
The future of America is @ your library. We must ensure that in the future the American public has access to government information in libraries by assuring sustained funding and support. Millions of people pass through the library each year, but without adequate support, these resources may not be there when you need them. Everyone loves libraries.
But libraries cannot live on love alone.
Please participate if you can.
"What used to take hours to dig up and analyze is now laid bare for you to see in seconds or minutes," so states the homepage of MAPLight.org, a new website that brings together campaign contributions and how legislators vote, creating more transparency of the connections between money and politics. This includes:
- How each legislator voted on each of the 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session.
- All campaign contributions made to each legislator from 2001-2004, categorized by the interest or industry of the contributor.
- Supporters and opponents of each bill, and the industries and interests those supporters and opponents represent.
- A brief description of each bill, and the subject the bill is about.
- The full text of each bill, including committee reports and amendments.
So far, MAPLight.org currently includes all 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session and all California campaign contributions from January 2001 through December 2004. They are seeking donations and support to extend MAPLight.org to include data for other states and U.S. Congress. This is a very promising project, so let's give them our support!
Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization which develops and deploys new Internet technologies to make government information more accessible to citizens (i.e., Open Congress), is launching a new site called publicmarkup.org. The website is a place to post bills, to allow citizens to comment on, suggest edits to the substance of the legislation and promote participation. The idea of PublicMarkup.org is based on Transparency in Government Act of 2008. W00t!
This project is not intended to be the ultimate technical solution to the challenge of drafting legislation online, but an experiment in online collaboration. By collecting legislation, summaries, resources and commentary in a single linkable location, PublicMarkup.org provides a simple, blog-like framework for soliciting feedback on this legislation.