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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

CBO scores FDLP Modernization Act

the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released its scoring or cost estimate of H.R. 5305, FDLP Modernization Act of 2018. CBO is required by law to provide a formal cost estimate for nearly every bill approved by Congressional committees to show how the bill would affect the Federal budget over the next five to 10 years, compared with what future spending or revenues would be under the current law.

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5305 would cost $13 million over the 2019-2023 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary funds. Further, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 5305 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029. The complete scoring report is available on FDLP.gov.

H.R. 5305 would amend the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the part of the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) that provides government publications to the public at no cost. Specifically, H.R. 5305 would ensure the continued availability of no-cost public access to government information in various formats, reform and modernize the FDLP, and authorize the activities of the Superintendent of Documents.

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5305 would cost $13 million over the 2019-2023 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary funds.

Enacting H.R. 5305 could affect direct spending by agencies that use fees, receipts from the sale of goods, and other collections to cover operating costs. The bill also could affect direct spending by allowing GPO to accept and retain gifts. Therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Because most of the affected agencies can adjust the amounts collected as their operating costs change, CBO estimates that any net changes in direct spending by agencies would be insignificant. CBO expects that gifts to GPO would be nonmonetary and thus have no effect on the budget. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.

CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 5305 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029.

H.R. 5305 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

via H.R. 5305, FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 | Congressional Budget Office.

To read: “Cutting through the Fog: Govt Information, Librarians, & the 45th Presidency”

Kian Flynn and Cass Hartnett have just published a solid article in Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3) called “Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency” (full citation below!). In it, they broadly highlight the current govt information landscape — kindly mention several projects including LOCKSS-USDOCS! — and then come to a very positive conclusion:

Going forward, librarians must face the present—and the future—state of government information in order to cut through this fog. We need to work together to pursue collaborative partnerships to safeguard past, present, and future government information for the public’s long-term access and consumption, and to promote services that encourage our users to critically evaluate and interrogate all information. Our collaborations must move in two directions at once: (1) We need to ensure that official legal processes are in place to best manage government information (the hoped-for outcome of Title 44 reform). And (2) we need to create nongovernmental solutions to preserve secondary “use copies” of government information as well (read: backups), holding the information in trust together. The solutions we create today need to be adaptable for the government information landscape of the future.

One thing I thought I should mention. In their section on highlighting collections, they helpfully point the reader to publications from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Congressional Research Service (CRS) as particularly valuable and relevant for their “dispassionate, scholarly, ‘just the facts’ approach.” I think it should be noted that none of these are hosted on GPO’s govinfo.gov platform, only the GAO has a partnership in place w GPO to permanently preserve their documents, the CBO has been under an unprecedented attack on its legitimacy by the GOP, and CRS reports, until recently — and after a 20 year grassroots effort! — were never made publicly available or distributed via the FDLP. It takes a village of libraries to assure permanent public access!

Please read and forward to others who may be interested. Thanks Kian and Cass!

Flynn, K., & Hartnett, C. (2018). Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 208-216. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.3.6608

Drastic Cuts to CBO Budget

The Washington Post reports that amendments to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill contained in H.R. 3219 would gut the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). These amendments would make it impossible for CBO to continue to execute one of its core duties by eliminating CBO’s Budget Analysis Division and reduce the agency’s staff by at least one third.

  • Congressional Budget Office is Freedom Caucus’s target in spending bill. Mike DeBonis, Washington Post (July 24, 2017).

    Conservative hard-liners in the House are hoping to gut the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper whose analysis has recently bedeviled Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, by amending a massive spending bill set to be debated later this week.

R street (a think tank that promotes free markets and limited government) and Demand Progress (a grassroots group that fights for internet freedom and open government) have written a “dear representative” letter opposing to the cuts.

  • letter [1 page, PDF]

    Dear Representative:

    We strongly oppose proposed legislation that would weaken the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”). Congress created CBO in 1974 to bolster its ability to check an overreaching executive branch. It is a nonpartisan legislative branch agency with an apolitic al, expert staff that assists Congress with analyzing federal spending and developing annual budgets….

If you oppose these cuts, as we do, we urge you to contact your Representative.

A bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act

House bill 1211 amends the Freedom of Information Act with the intended purpose being to provide for greater public access to information. The bill would require federal agencies to make public information disclosed under FOIA available in an electronic, publicly accessible format and require the OMB to ensure the existence and operation of a single, free website for submitting requests for records and receiving automated information about the status of a FOIA request.

Policies for Increasing Economic Growth and Employment

Politics is so tiring. The same old talking points every day. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone in Congress would give us a non-partisan objective view of our options? Oh, wait! The Congressional Budget Office does just that! Recent testimony by the CBO director tells us (yet again) what CBO has been telling us: that extending unemployment benefits produces more output and better increase in employment per dollar spent than any other option. Looking for a document (or an agency) to feature on your blog or GovInfo home page? Here you go!

  • Policies for Increasing Economic Growth and Employment in 2012 and 2013, Statement of Douglas W. Elmendorf, Director Congressional Budget Office, before the Committee on the Budget United States Senate, Congressional Budget Office (November 15, 2011) [54 pages, PDF].

    Comparing the estimated effects of different policy actions shows the following:

    • Policies that would have the largest effects on output and employment per dollar of budgetary cost in 2012 and 2013 are ones that would reduce the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees or that would be targeted toward people who would be most likely to spend the additional income. Such policies include reducing employers’ payroll taxes (especially if limited to firms that increase their payroll), increasing aid to the unemployed, and providing additional refundable tax credits in 2012 for lower- and middle-income households.
    • Policies that would primarily affect businesses’ cash flow but would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest would have only small effects. Such policies include reducing business income taxes and reducing tax rates on repatriated foreign earnings.

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