New Senate Stimulus Bill: Recovery.gov Out?

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The Senate has just posted the new version of the stimulus bill (Amendment 98 to HR 1), weighing in at well over 700 pages.

Most notable for us are the online disclosure requirements, which have changed from the House version, which required the creation of recovery.gov, with many specific requirements.  Some of these changes are minor, and some aren’t.  See the end of this post for versions from each bill.

Most obviously, the requirement that the site be named “Recovery.gov” has been removed.  I can see at least two explanations for this.  First, recovery.gov has a sort of promotional ring to it, which some have objected to.  Second, it isn’t entirely clear that the best solution for stimulus disclosure is to have a well-branded stand-alone site.  As long as the information is posted, and complete, and accessible (etc), then I’m not very concerned about what we call it.

The other significant difference, however, is the missing requirements that the House version had.  For example, the House version requires that:

“(B) The notification…shall include the following: … In the case of State or local agencies, a certification from the Governor, mayor, or other chief executive, as appropriate, that the infrastructure investment has received the full review and vetting required by law and that the chief executive accepts responsibility that the infrastructure investment is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. A State or local agency may not receive infrastructure investment funding from funds made available in this Act unless this certification is made.”

The Senate version still requires the certification, but doesn’t require it to be online:

SEC. 1605. With respect to funds in titles I though XVI of this Act made available to State, or local government agencies, the Governor, mayor, or other chief executive, as appropriate, shall certify that the infrastructure investment has received the full review and vetting required by law and that the chief executive accepts responsibility that the infrastructure investment is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. A State or local agency may not receive infrastructure investment funding from funds made available in this Act unless this certification is made.

So, the question for transparency advocates is this: are the requirements as drafted in the House version desirable, and are they feasible, and also, are there other things that neither bill requires that should be included, such as perhaps bulk data access?  Is it feasible to have each locality post their certification online, or could a requirement perhaps be made of the Board that they, instead, post a list of any locality slated to receive funds that hasn’t submitted their certification?

I’d love to know the justification behind some of these particular decisions.

Is the Senate avoiding accountability?  Crafting something more technologically realistic?  Ignoring their House counterparts?  Holding back so as to showboat their creative technological legislating through amendments?

Hard to tell.

Senate Version (Amendment 98 to HR1)

SEC. 1519. BOARD WEBSITE. (a) ESTABLISHMENT.—The Board shall establish and maintain a user-friendly, public-facing website to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of covered funds. (b) PURPOSE.—The website established and maintained under subsection (a) shall be a portal or gateway to key information relating to this Act and provide connections to other Government websites with related information. (c) CONTENTANDFUNCTION.—In establishing the website established and maintained under subsection (a), the Board shall ensure the following: (1) The website shall provide materials explaining what this Act means for citizens. The materials shall be easy to understand and regularly updated. (2) The website shall provide accountability information, including a database of findings from audits, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office. (3) The website shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant, and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of covered funds. (4) The website shall provide detailed data on contracts awarded by the Government that expend covered funds, including information about the competitiveness of the contracting process, notification of solicitations for contracts to be awarded, and information about the process that was used for the award of contracts. (5) The website shall include printable reports on covered funds obligated by month to each State and congressional district. (6) The website shall provide a means for the public to give feedback on the performance of contracts that expend covered funds. (7) The website shall be enhanced and updated as necessary to carry out the purposes of this subtitle. (d) WAIVER.—The Board may exclude posting contractual or other information on the website on a case-by-case basis when necessary to protect national security.

House Version (HR 1) (via OpenCongress.org)

SEC. 1226. RECOVERY.GOV.

(a) REQUIREMENT TO ESTABLISH WEBSITE.— The Board shall establish and maintain a website on the Internet to be named Recovery.gov, to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of funds made avail1able in this Act.

(b) PURPOSE.—Recovery.gov shall be a portal or gateway to key information related to this Act and provide a window to other Government websites with related information.

(c) MATTERS COVERED.—In establishing the website Recovery.gov, the Board shall ensure the following:

(1) The website shall provide materials explaining what this Act means for citizens. The materials shall be easy to understand and regularly updated. (2) The website shall provide accountability information, including a database of findings from audits, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office. (3) The website shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant, and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use funds made available in this Act. (4) The website shall provide detailed data on contracts awarded by the Government for purposes of carrying out this Act, including information about the competitiveness of the contracting process, noti1fication of solicitations for contracts to be awarded, and information about the process that was used for the award of contracts. (5) The website shall include printable reports on funds made available in this Act obligated by month to each State and congressional district. (6) The website shall provide a means for the public to give feedback on the performance of contracts awarded for purposes of carrying out this Act. (7) The website shall be enhanced and updated as necessary to carry out the purposes of this subtitle.

SEC. 1201: TRANSPARENCY REQUIREMENTS

(1) INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT FUNDING.—

With respect to funds made available under this Act for infrastructure investments to Federal, State, or local government agencies, the following requirements apply:

(A) Each such agency shall notify the public of funds obligated to particular infrastructure investments by posting the notification on the website Recovery.gov. (B) The notification required by subparagraph (A) shall include the following:

(i) A description of the infrastructure investment funded. (ii) The purpose of the infrastructure investment. (iii) The total cost of the infrastructure investment. (iv) The rationale of the agency for funding the infrastructure investment with funds made available under this Act. (v) The name of the person to contact at the agency if there are concerns with the infrastructure investment and, with respect to Federal agencies, an email address for the Federal official in the agency whom the public can contact. (vi) In the case of State or local agencies, a certification from the Governor, mayor, or other chief executive, as appropriate, that the infrastructure investment has received the full review and vetting required by law and that the chief executive accepts responsibility that the infrastructure investment is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. A State or local agency may not receive infrastructure investment funding from funds made available in this Act unless this certification is made.

(2) OPERATIONAL FUNDING.—

With respect to funds made available under this Act in the form of grants for operational purposes to State or local government agencies or other organizations, the agency or organization shall publish on the website Recoery.gov a description of the intended use of the funds, including the number of jobs sustained or created.

(c) AVAILABILITY ON INTERNET OF CONTRACTS AND GRANTS.—Each contract awarded or grant issued using funds made available in this Act shall be posted on the Internet and linked to the website Recovery.gov. Proprietary data that is required to be kept confidential under applicable Federal or State law or regulation shall be redacted before posting.

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  • Michael

    I believe that republicans are trying to undermine President Obama’s stimulus package because he is standing up to their selfish greed. The President has called them out on the carpet and they are throwing tantrums like little children. Ok, so republicans don’t agree with Obana’s plans but we haven’t heard anything about their plans. Judging by their track record all we’ve witnessed is more lies and destructive behaviors. Where were all of those so called smart republicans when they were at the helm…oh I forgot they were at the bank making withdrawals, driving up oil prices and filling their pockets with the lute. Less we forget they were rewriting legislation so they could make it all legal. In the meantime children starved around them, military veterans suffered greatly, families where destroyed , businesses closed, the elderly were put out, the sick died by the millions….sorry I know these are some things they don’t want to remember but they reaped what they sowed. We the people, gave them our trust and they exploited it, so stop crying republicans and get to work!! I don’t remember democrats acting in this fashion when “We the people” voted in favor of the republican party( I voted republican but no more). In my opinion they can spend the rest of their time winning or trying to show Obama who has “the power” while destroying their chances of ever regaining our trust or you can accept whats in front of you. Figure out how you can support the President who by the way is speaking for “We the people” if you can remember back in November “We” chose “Him”. So to put him down is to put the millions of Americans who voter for him down. Unless that’s your objective and in that case we hear you loud and clear. Frankly you’ve had your chance to present your arguments and solutions to the mess you created and you lost big time. So now its Obama’s time to prove himself. Republicans please stop with all the distractions and move on with the business of running the country or quit and will vote for someone else.

    Just a note: The American people have awakened to the power of the vote so don’t underestimate us. Information is instant and we use technology to stay informed and engaged. I for one am for the stimulus package and pray that what the President is promoting will work for the benefit of all. We would not be human if everyone looked, acted, thought, and desired the same thing…diversity makes us who we are. So get over it already!

  • raymond s. cyzick

    Obama said, lets show people all over our country we are equal to the task of leadership. He is.He is leading us as more money is spent to support liberal programs and permanently expands the role of government and increases spending for years to come.

  • Are you insane,think about what this will do to America.Is it that American’s are dumbing down,as you haven’t got a clue of what’s really happening.

  • Dear. Idiots,
    Do you understand this is American people that you are talking about here. I like the stimulus package. Leave it alone republicans. You just want to know the show. Let President Obama do his job. This is his plan, Remember not yours. I support it and dont care what republican say. so republicans back off

  • Mrs. Linda Henselman

    Dear Sir:
    I commend you on making the stimulus bill contrasts so that one can see that there are differences in the application of the ideas and purposes of such a program. This is a program that is supposed to stimulate the economy in the areas of: preservation and creatin jobs, to assist those most impacted by the recession, to provide investments in technological advances in science and health, transportation, environmental protection and other infrastructure for a long term benefet and to stabilize the State and local government budgets.
    Somehow the discussion of the Congress is not that focused and clear in explaining what you have begun to make specifically done here. Transparency, accountability and the clarity via internet is making all become involve with our future. Keep up the good work.
    Now also for the TARP and other appropriations bills.