Improving Public Oversight of Government: The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

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Public oversight of government could become a lot easier if legislation introduced yesterday becomes law. The “Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act” (HR 1974) requires reports to Congress or its committees be published online by GPO. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Quigley, and joined by 6 original co-sponsors, reaches virtually all federal agencies and applies to all reports required by statute or conference report, subject to limited exceptions.

Similar legislation was introduced last congress by former Rep. Steve Dreihaus, whose groundbreaking, common-sense legislation has been upgraded by this bill in several important ways:

First, the ACRMA makes sure the reports will be available in bulk, in open formats, and in a timely fashion, so that people can easily learn about the work of the federal government.

Second, it would require the reports to be published by GPO, a legislative branch agency, instead of OMB, so as to maintain control of congressional documents by an arm of the legislature. Because GPO already has a website to publish reports online, publishing these additional documents should be a relatively light lift.

Third, the bill would make it possible to determine when agencies have failed to submit reports to congress in a timely fashion as required by law.

Finally, ACMRA spells out the limited circumstances when reports (or some of their contents) can be withheld or redacted, including indicating when redactions are made.

A number of organizations — including the Sunlight Foundation — have already endorsed the bill, and we hope that it will receive speedy consideration and passage.

This is the kind of transparency reform that everyone can support.

Access to Congressionally Mandated Report Act of 2011

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