Bringing more transparency to the 114th House of Representatives

Capitol building

Today, the Sunlight Foundation joined with our colleagues at the OpenGov Foundation and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to issue recommendations for improving transparency and accountability in the House of Representatives through reforms to that chamber’s rules.

This has become something of a tradition for us, repeated as each new Congress nears. In the past, the exercise has helped push the House rules in a more transparent direction by opening up more committee information, improving disclosure for those testifying before Congress, helping to ensure that bill texts are posted online before they are voted on and more.

There is always more to be done. This year our recommendations were additionally strengthened by our ongoing work with the OpeningParliament network and the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness.

We focused our suggestions on nine discrete steps the House can take to operate more openly.

  1. Adopting a chamber-wide presumption in favor of public access, including proactive disclosure of many documents and the institution of an open source software policy.
  2. Providing greater public access to draft legislation prior to consideration by the House and its committees and subcommittees, including creating context for amendments.
  3. Further strengthening the Office of Congressional Ethics.
  4. Auditing and creating an index of congressional information.
  5. Fixing lobbying disclosure forms.
  6. Reexamining the accreditation of journalists.
  7. Creating a special committee on congressional effectiveness to examine systemic problems.
  8. Creating new transparency mechanisms, including an ombudsman, an advisory committee on public access to information, and better ways of managing legislative support agencies.
  9. Addressing oversight of national security issues.

You can read the whole text of the recommendations here.

We’ve got a lot more to say about these recommendations and related issues, so stay tuned.