The U.S. House holds transparency conference, says access to law must be free

This year the U.S. House has continued on its path toward greater transparency, and this week in particular two developments are worth noting: The House’s committee on House Administration held its second annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference, and they rebuked a report that suggested it was OK for the government to charge the public for access to the law.

At the conference on Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol, staff in the office of the House Clerk, the Library of Congress, and the Government Printing Office, and other offices, updated attendees on the status of ongoing transparency projects, from the new Docs.House.Gov to the new Beta.Congress.Gov. We learned that the House is developing new software to record committee votes — currently notoriously difficult to find — so that these voting records can be published in a consistent, standard, and machine-readable format on Docs.House.Gov.

The House Administration committee invited members of the public to speak in the afternoon. I closed out the conference with a presentation on an Open Government Data Maturity Model. (There was no need for me to present GovTrack — everyone at the conference already knows GovTrack well!)

Also on Wednesday the House Administration Committee published a press release rebuking a recommendation from a report that they commissioned that suggested it was OK to charge the public for access to the law. The committee wrote:

Today, House Administration Chairman … issued the following statement … rejecting a recent recommendation by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to charge the public for access to GPO’s congressional documents: … Charging the public to access important legislative documents offered online by GPO, like the Congressional Record and the U.S. Code, would be a direct assault on our ability to engage Americans in a process that is of great consequence to their livelihoods.

When the congressionally-funded report was first published I was appalled that it suggested pay-for-access was OK, and I am relieved that the House Administration Committee feels the same way.

Daniel Schuman at the Sunlight Foundation covered this in more detail, and James Jacobs for FreeGovInfo covered this originally here and here.

There have been some other great developments in the House earlier this year, including an earlier meeting on transparency, and new digitization projects for historical legal documents. And this continues a line of improvements to transparency during the 112th Congress (2011-2012), which I wrote about here.

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2 Comments

  1. This is the first time that I have seen your site, and it is interesting.
    How are your work funded?
    Craig

    Like

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