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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.

CREW Recommends Updating House Information Rules

There are many excellent recommendations in the new report on improving transparency and accountability in the House of Representatives from CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), the Sunlight Foundation, and the OpenGov Foundation.

Some that may be of particular interest to government information professionals include:

  • Another call to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports publicly available, and an interim recommendation that the House should should publish a list of all widely-distributed reports issued by CRS.

  • A recommendation that the House should list all reports to be made to Congress on a “dashboard” that indicates when a report was received.

  • The report notes that the House generates and receives tremendous amounts of information, but often is not clear what information is held by the House, who is responsible for it, and whether it can be made available to the public. It recommends that the House should undertake an audit of the documents or other information that it holds, who is responsible for the information, the format in which it is stored, and where and how it can be obtained by the public.

The report notes that The Joint Committee on the Library (JCL) and the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) have met only once for 5 minutes in the 113th Congress, that they no longer have their own websites, and that, from a public perspective, they are effectively moribund. It recommends that the House explore ways to reinvigorate oversight of the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office. It should particularly focus on making sure that Congress has sufficient capacity to effectively ensure that these agencies are properly performing their roles of making information available to the public, and that the oversight process in performed in a way that the public can be properly engaged.

It is an excellent report! Check it out!

Help redesign clerk.house.gov

The Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives is asking for the public’s help in redesigning clerk.house.gov. Please take this brief survey and let them know what’s absolutely critical for their new site. I hope you’ll put a good word in for long-term digital preservation, open non-DRM’d bulk data, and ongoing deposit of the House’s content into FDsys.gov. The deadline is Friday, February 7, 2014.

2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in DC next week

For those of you that willl be in Washington DC next week, please consider attending the 2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (RSVP required). There will be several interesting panels with House and external stakeholders like the Sunlight Foundation and the Cornell Legal Information Institute — including a panel on electronic archiving and one on “missing data” and what to do about it (“missing” meaning not effectively on-line and digital, etc.).

The 2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference will take place on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium. The conference brings together legislative branch agencies with data users and transparency advocates to discuss the use and future of legislative data. Topics include:

–Electronic legislative archiving
–XML and metadata standards
–Updates on beta.congress.gov

House to live-stream committee proceedings

House to live-stream committee proceedings, By Debbie Siegelbaum, The Hill (02/02/12).

The House is now offering live video streaming of committee proceedings online through the Library of Congress.

The Committee on House Administration announced on Thursday that the live webcasts would be available at http://thomas.loc.gov/video/house-committee.

The Library of Congress also will archive previous committee proceedings, which the panel said would create the first “one-stop shop for House committee video content.”

House Launches Transparency Portal

Daniel Schuman describes a House commitment to openness that resulted in action!

  • House Launches Transparency Portal, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (Jan. 13, 2012).

    Making good on part of the House of Representative’s commitment to increase congressional transparency, today the House Clerk’s office launched http://docs.house.gov/, a one stop website where the public can access all House bills, amendments, resolutions for floor consideration, and conference reports in XML, as well as information on floor proceedings and more. Information will ultimately be published online in real time and archived for perpetuity.

    …the ongoing process of releasing documents online, in real-time, and in machine-readable manner is a tremendous sea change from the slow and ponderous paper publications that are often late, fairly difficult to use, and unfriendly to computers.

Daniel rightly emphasizes the availability of XML, but the site does make PDFs available as well. It also has as RSS feed: