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Agency Report Transparency Bill Set for Markup Tomorrow

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Tomorrow the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act will get its turn in the spotlight. The legislation, which would require reports from agencies to Congress be available online on a single website, is set for a mark-up before the Committee on House Administration. The bipartisan bill was already favorably reported by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in June 2011, but must pass another hurdle before going to the House floor. It enjoys widespread support from members of the transparency community.

The bill fixes a problem that has bedeviled Congress and watchdogs for years. Federal agencies are required to submit reports to Congress, but they often fail to do so, and even reports that have been submitted often cannot be found on agency websites or congressional webpages. This makes oversight incredibly difficult.

ACMRA solves these problems by requiring that all congressionally mandated reports be sent to GPO, which would then publish them online on a single website. (The House Clerk already compiles a master list of the reports that must be filed.) Centralization publication will make the reports easy to find -- and it would become a trivial task to identify when agencies have failed to file on time. The reports must be submitted in open formats and can be downloaded in bulk, so they are easy to open and analyze. In limited circumstances, some of the contents of the reports can be redacted for national security or other reasons, but only if the redaction is permissible under FOIA. It's also worth noting that GPO says that the costs of implementing the legislation are not significant and would be borne by the agency.

Rep. Mike Quigley introduced the legislation and spearheaded efforts to get it enacted in the House. He is now joined by 17 co-sponsors. Senator Lieberman introduced a companion measure in the Senate, which is cosponsored by Senators Collins and Coburn.

A favorable report by the Committee on House Administration could set the stage for quick passage in the House and a hearing in the Senate. CHA has supported a number of other open government measures, so it is hoped that the legislation will meet quick approval.