In today's edition, we congratulate Colorado on passing legislation to modernize its open records, try to keep up with the latest news around President Trump's decision to fire James Comey, think critically about the President's new commission on election integrity, read about Chinese efforts to stamp out corruption in grade school, and more…
states and cities
- Congratulations to Colorado for passing legislation modernizing open records. "An 18-month push to update Colorado’s open-records law for the digital age culminated Wednesday in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public’s right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records." (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)
- West Virginia takes a page from Ohio's successful playbook with new open budget data platform. "To combat a budget deficit of nearly $500 million, West Virginia State Auditor John B. McCuskey is launching a new open data platform that will make it easier for everyone — from ordinary citizens up through actual policymakers — to find, analyze and disseminate specific information about government spending." (Government Technology)
- Court keeps California water information secret. "Crucial details about the location and depth of certain California water wells can be kept secret, and out of the hands of an environmental group, a top federal appeals court ruled Tuesday." (Sacramento Bee via NFOIC)
- Texas Senate approves bill that would reopen public access to state contracts and spending. "A move to keep alive the most significant open-government measure of the legislative session was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas Senate on Thursday, including measures to reopen government contracts and spending open to public disclosure." The will now go back to the Texas House for final approval. (Chron.com) The public deserves access to state spending information. We hope the House moves quickly to approve this legislation.
- Former congresswoman convicted of funneling charity money to herself. "Corrine Brown, a former longtime United States representative from Florida, was convicted on Thursday of taking for herself thousands of dollars in donations that were meant to fund student scholarships." (New York Times)
- Crowdpac is shaking up House races by helping potential candidates raise money before officially jumping in. "For people like Allen who are weighing runs for public office but may have little or no political experience, Crowdpac creates the political equivalent of a crowd-funding page. That’s used to raise money until the prospective candidate hits a target amount or officially announces." If the candidate decides not to run, donors aren't charged. (Roll Call)
- Jared Kushner's relatives are pulling out of pitch meetings in China following uproar. "The real estate company owned by the family of Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump, said on Friday that its leaders would not take part in sales pitches to Chinese investors this weekend." (New York Times)
- A Trump property in the Caribbean is on the market, raising new ethics concern. "President Trump's trust is selling off a Caribbean resort, which creates an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, ethics experts want Trump to divest. But when he sells, that opens an opportunity for a wealthy buyer to try to win his favor." (NPR)
- Don't forget that we've been tracking Trump's conflicts of interest and our list has over 500 entries.
- "This Russia thing", Comey's refusal to pledge loyalty may have contributed to the President's decision to fire the F.B.I director. The story of President Trump's decision to fire James Comey is full of conflicting accounts, but two particularly concerning narrative threads emerged yesterday. First, sources indicate that Comey rebuffed Trump's demands for loyalty from the F.B.I director — whose 10 year term is designed to guarantee political independence. (New York Times) Second, in a statement that directly contradicted earlier White House explanations, the President cited "this Russia thing" as part of his rationale for the dismissal. (Washington Post)
- Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order creating a Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity. There are some serious systemic issues with the American electoral system including voter suppression based on race and sex. We hope the committee carefully considers these issues and not just the President's unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. You can find more of our reactions to the announcement in this Twitter thread. We also recommend reading Rick Hasen's, healthily skeptical, thoughts on the committee.
- Office of Government Ethics want to know if top Trump appointees are keeping up their ethics bargains. "When the Senate was preparing to confirm President Trump's Cabinet and other top officials, the nominees negotiated ethics agreements, promising to rearrange their financial lives to avoid conflicts of interest…Now the Office of Government Ethics wants to know if they kept their word." (NPR)
- Chinese media warns against classroom corruption. "A commentary in the Communist Party newspaper said it was common to see students bribe teachers and other students to gain advantage in class. The paper urged people to teach children correct conduct before they grow accustomed to a corrupt culture." This may be part of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping's larger efforts to consolidate power in the Communist Party. (Bloomberg)
- Togo moves forward with Access to Information law. "The Togolese Council of Ministers has adopted on first reading a decree on the implementation of March 30, 2016, law on freedom of access to information and public documentation." (FreedomInfo.org)
- Threats to press freedom in Tanzania. "Tanzanian President John Magufuli's ominous warning to journalists last month that press freedom had 'limits' following a sequence of events that led to the firing of his information minister has raised new concerns about authoritarianism in the east African republic." (ifex.org)
save the dates
- #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
- May 17th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the 2017 Doorstop Awards in Washington, DC. "Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress." Learn more here.
- May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. "This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership's new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments." Learn more here.
- June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. "The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen." Check out the panels and Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
- June 27th: Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in Washington, DC. "The Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2017 (#LDTC17), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2017in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The #LDTC17 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future." Learn more here.
- June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here.
- September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.
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