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Happy Sunshine Week, the week where we celebrate government transparency, FOIA and all things open government information! There’s lots happening this week including the upcoming 1/2 day live and streaming celebration at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). But there’s also work to be done. Evidently, appropriators are holding up the smart, pro-transparency “HR 736 Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act” scheduled for a floor vote on Tuesday. Contact your Representative today and tell them to pass this important act!
There’s too much news happening this week to list it all — make sure to subscribe to the First Branch Forecast weekly newsletter published by Daniel Schuman and his crack team at Demand Progress to keep up to date! — but I did want to highlight the good news coming out of the LIBRARY of Congress. Slowly but surely, they’re expanding the number of Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports being published on their site crsreports.congress.gov. They still don’t have the coverage of EveryCRSReport.com which includes 14,742 CRS reports (and still growing) but LoC is getting there so good on them. Celebrate Sunshine Week by leaving LoC a comment and contacting your Representative to tell them to vote for “HR 736 Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act”. Sunshine is the best disinfectant!!
Since launching, we’ve added hundreds of new reports and are working hard to include the back catalog of older CRS reports – a process that is expected to be complete later this month. Today, you can access more than 2,300 reports on topics ranging from the Small Business Administration to farm policy.
Starting this week, the Library is making additional product types available on the site. The site now includes In Focus products, which are two-page executive level briefing documents on a range of policy issues. For example, recent topics include military medical malpractice and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant. Another newly-added product type is the Insight, which provides short-form analysis on fast moving or more focused issues. Examples of topics include volcano early warning systems and Congressional Member Organizations. Users can filter by product type using the faceted search on the left hand of the search results page.
[UPDATE 1:30pm 09122018: The bill going forward in the Senate is S. 2944, NOT 2673. And S.2944 includes reference to the depository library program! I’ve updated the link below to the correct Senate bill. JRJ]
Heads up! There’s a bill at the beginning of the legislative process called “Preventing Additional Printing of Electronic Records Act of 2018″ or the PAPER Act of 2018. Don’t you just love how Congress has to acronymize their bill titles?! This bill seeks to limit the printing of the Congressional Record, one of our most important Congressional publications, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the US Congress. It’s important to the Federal Depository Library Program to keep publishing the CR in paper for research utility and preservation purposes.
The House version mentions the FDLP, but the Senate version does not:
(d) Depository libraries
The Director of the Government Publishing Office shall furnish to the Superintendent of Documents as many daily and bound copies of the Congressional Record as may be required for distribution to depository libraries.
This bill is at the very beginning of the process, so it’s not time to get nervous. But the depository community ought to keep an eye on this bill in case it gathers momentum in the House and/or Senate.
The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA) H.R. 4631 was introduced yesterday by Representative Mike Quigley. If passed, it will require that all Congressionally mandated reports be deposited in a publicly accessible database maintained by the GPO. For more background, see Daniel Schuman’s writeup and background. The Washington Post wrote about the problem a few years ago titled “Unrequired reading.” Here’s the ACRMA bill text. 38 organizations, including FGI, wrote a public letter endorsing the bill.
The most interesting piece in the bill to me — well other than the requirement of executive agencies to deposit ALL mandated reports with GPO! — is section 4 subsection b, which directs OMB to issue guidance to agencies on implementing the act. My hope is that this is another opportunity to reform OMB circular A-130, which we here at FGI have suggested could be updated to better represent the needs of libraries and the FDLP.
The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, thanks to the tremendous leadership of Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Sens. Ron Portman (R-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The bipartisan bill (read it here) requires:
all reports to Congress that are required by law to be published online in a central repository, and Congress to keep a list of all of its reporting requirements and check whether agencies have submitted reports on time.
ACMRA is important because it improves the legislative ecosystem for high quality information. In short, it empowers Congressional staff to do their jobs and the public to hold the government accountable.
[Note: We wrote this analysis based on the text of the draft bill of December 1, 2017. Just before posting we received a new draft bill dated December 11, 2017. A quick comparison shows few significant changes between the two bills, but there are some improvements (we note one below.) We encourage you to suggest improvements directly to the CHA (see “Action” at the end of this post.]
We now have a draft bill (dated 12/11/2017) proposing revisions to Title 44 of the U.S. Code. It is, indeed, a draft with inconsistencies and some awkward and confusing language. Also, the marked up by the Committee on House Administration that was supposed to happen on Wednesday December 13, 2017 has now been postponed until some time in January, 2018. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of the intentions of the bill are clear. We provide below a first look at this draft bill, focusing on broad policies rather than detailed specifics.
A complete rewrite
The bill does not tweak the existing law, but throws it out and rewrites significant portions of the law. Specifically, it throws out chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 17, and 19 that define the Depository Library Program along with Congressional/Executive/Judicial printing and binding, the Joint Committee on Printing, the Government Publishing Office, and the sales program, and inserts in its place 3 giant chapters defining the “Government Printing Office” (yes, it changes the name back to "printing office"), “Implementation of Authorities,” and “No-fee public access to government information” (which includes the FDLP and GPO’s "online repository"). It also evidently drops chapter 41 that defines access to federal electronic information and sets up FDsys/govinfo.gov.
The bill instantiates into law GPO’s worst policies. It does improve provisions for long-term free access and digital preservation, but it does so inadequately and with explicit loopholes that make those provisions nearly worthless. The bill contains provisions that would be very useful if they were enforceable, but it removes the already almost non-existent enforcement in the current law. In short, it is a bad bill with some nice language thrown in to make it sound better than it is. A spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, as it were.
As we have suggested, there are four principles that, we believe, must be supported by any revision of Title 44.
Below we analyze the bill’s effect on those principles and the other weaknesses of the bill.
This is a very cool idea as well as an important policy statement. Sunlight Foundation and a diverse coalition of government transparency, data innovation, scientific groups and environment defense advocates have come together to advocate for the “Preserving Data in Government Act of 2017”, which was recently introduced in the Senate. Sunlight has put the bill up on Madison, the site that allows for public collaboration on policy documents. So here’s your chance to read the bill and add your comments and suggestions to make the bill better!
This bill, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate this spring, would require federal agencies to preserve public access to data sets and prevent the removal of those data sets from the Internet without sufficient public notice. The Sunlight Foundation, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government, supports the bill — but we want to make it better. You can comment on the full text of the Preserving Data in Government Act of 2017 below. Well make sure the Senate staff that drafted the bill see your contributions.