Today in OpenGov: Senate healthcare secrecy is the wrong prescription for ailing democracy


Yesterday, Sunlight’s Executive Director John Wonderlich explained how unprecedented and dangerous the Senate’s secretive healthcare process has been. Many hot-button issues like ” the filibuster or the debt limit show how positions on legislative process are often dictated by party rather than principle, with the minority favoring transparency and obstruction, and the majority defending secrecy.”

This process is fundamentally different with a procedure “designed, from start to finish, to minimize transparency. Republican leadership is hiding the healthcare bill, and thus preventing health care policy journalists and analysts from informing constituents, voters, and reporters about the impact of the proposals.” This is an an outrageous violation of our norms for policymaking in a democracy: that laws should be drafted in a way that allows for public scrutiny and bipartisan consideration, thehealth care system should take into consideration the best vericose vein treatments more often.

As John explained, this goes beyond the usual push and pull of partisan politics. even Senators on the team charged with writing the bill have not seen it. (Bloomberg) Meanwhile, “A trio of key conservative senators is publicly raising concerns about the GOP bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, specifically questioning the decision to draft the legislation behind closed doors.” (The Hill)

Read on for more open government news from around the United States and across the globe.


  • Why the Trump Administration’s press access rollbacks matter. “The president’s anti-media defenders may support the administration’s approach, but it’s hard to justify the rollback in accountability. It’s not just the White House, either: the State Department and the Pentagon have all but stopped holding on-camera briefings, too…If you’re a Trump supporter and you’re OK with his secrecy, how would you feel if this were a Democratic administration?” (CNN)
  • In meeting, tech executives urged President Trump to look beyond IT modernization. The group highlighted areas including the need for more open data, procurement, immigration reform, and the need for more federal research funding. (Nextgov)
  • Trump budget would save housing subsidy that benefits his bottom line. “President Trump’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords.” Turns out, Trump is one of those landlords. (Washington Post) This feels like a good time to remind you that we’re tracking Trump’s various conflicts of interest.
  • In most expensive race ever, Republicans retain Georgia House seat. With roughly $55 million in spending, the race to fill Tom Price’s Georgia seat was the most expensive in history by a significant margin. (New York Times)

states and cities

Honolulu, Hawaii. Image Credit: Edmund Garman
  • Honolulu lobbyists have more to report. “The city doesn’t require lobbyists to provide any details about how they spend money. About 85 percent of the lobbyists who filed reports said they didn’t spend anything last year. Nearly three dozen registered lobbyists didn’t submit any reports, even though mandatory forms were due six months ago.” (Civil Beat)
  • Boston joins other cities in posting climate change data that disappeared from the EPA website. “Boston joined more than a dozen other cities to recently share climate change data from the Environmental Protection Agency that has been removed from the agency’s website. The seemingly harmless educational tool on a municipal website has political implications that did not go unnoticed by environmental advocates.” (Government Technology)
  • San Francisco’s toolkit to manage security risks in their open data. “We already have a toolkit for privacy risks but we recognized a gap for managing the risks mentioned above. Privacy risks are specific to data about individuals. Security risks are about organizational risks related to property, business processes, etc. Plus, we heard from our data stewards that security risks need to be managed. Since the Privacy Edition was successful, we decided to develop the Security Edition.” (DataSF)

around the world

Participants in NDI’s Civic Tech Leadership Program with former Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright.
  • Civic Tech Leadership Program connects young leaders from Middle East and U.S. “NDI brought 16 aspiring young innovators from Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and the United States to Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA, in April to meet with policymakers, technologists, civic innovators and social entrepreneurs. The visit was the culmination of NDI’s Civic Tech Leadership Program — a unique bilingual program to cultivate young tech-empowered leaders in the U.S. and across the Middle East. Study mission participants had the opportunity discuss their ideas for technologies that address pressing political and social challenges.” (National Democratic Institute)
  • Two French ministers resign their posts amid scrutiny. “Richard Ferrand, who helped Macron set up his political party, said Monday he would give up his role as regional development minister. Defense Minister Sylvie Goulard handed in her resignation Tuesday morning, saying in a statement she didn’t feel she could remain part of the government while investigators are looking into whether she and other European deputies from the centrist MoDem party misused allowances to pay for party activities.” (Bloomberg)
  • Embracing open source technology enables governments to improve systems and services with the public they serve.“In open source, everybody can tap into everybody else’s ideas from around the world and learn from it, innovate on it. That creates this high speed of innovation. And today’s technology giants also understand that. That’s why Google, Facebook, Amazon Web Services are all configured on open source.” (OpenGov Asia)

save the dates

Committee on House Administration
  • June 24-25: Random Hacks of Kindness, Washington, DC. “At a RHoK hackathons, the community comes seeking new technologies which are born, existing platforms are built upon, and innovative new ideas attract attention and support. The community of Coders|Hackers|Programers consider the requests and the determine which of the challenges are can be worked on and delivered in just two days. At the close of the hackathon, teams present the technologies they have developed and the community votes and prizes are awarded.” This edition is sponsored by INTERNEWS, the Help Earth Foundation, and CloudSploit. You can learn more and register to participate 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 28th, 10am EST: How Can Demand Driven & Bottom Up Social Accountability Tools Improve Health Services? The Experience of Rural Mozambique, Webinar. “This webinar explores how Concern Universal has managed to find the intersections in incentives and goals between government and rural communities while helping overcome some crucial gaps in health service delivery. It focuses on lessons learned through application of collaborative government/citizen’s approach. More information 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.
  • July 5, 10am EST: ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement: Voice or Chatter? Webinar. “In this webinar, IT for Change will present the results of eight empirical case studies of citizen engagement through ICTs they undertook. This research, funded by Making All Voices Count, explored in each case how new forms of participation were shaped by IT, how IT affected power relations between government and citizens, and how the interactions between different actors continuously shape governance. More information here:
  • July 19, 5:30 PM EST. Book Discussion: When Your Job Wants You To Lie in Washington, DC. “Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter. Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC). Refreshments start 5:30, and the discussion starts 6:00. Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance.” Learn more and RSVP 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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