Today in OpenGov: Checking open data off the list


In today's edition, Connecticut shares an open data report card, journalists struggle for access to prisons, Scott Pruitt's ethics troubles continue, the French parliament passes a fake news law, and more. 

states and cities

Hartford, Connecticut. Via Government Technology.
  • Connecticut recently passed a comprehensive open data law. Now they have an implementation report card. "In early June, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation requiring a formal commitment to data practices from the more than 20 agencies that make up his government. Now, to track their progress, the state has posted a new data report card online. The legislation is Public Act 18-175, and it essentially requires the completion of three main objectives by 23 internal state government agencies: appointing an agency data officer within the various departments, doing an inventory of each department’s high-quality data and developing a data plan." (Government Technology)
  • New Jersey passed a bill dedicating at least $5 million to boost local news. "In a landmark moment for the future of local news, on Sunday night New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy approved dedicating $5 million to the Civic Information Consortium, a first-of-its-kind nonprofit with a mission to revive, strengthen and transform media in New Jersey…the consortium will be set up as a public charity that will invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to strengthen local news coverage, community and municipal information, and civic engagement across New Jersey. It will be a collaboration among five of the state’s leading public higher-education institutions: The College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University." (Free Press)
  • San Diego, California's data driven approach is paying dividends. "San Diego’s efforts to become a leading technology hub is paying dividends…Being named a top performer in data-driven performance in the second-annual Equipt to Innovate survey from Governing and Living Cities is further proof of the city’s hard work in this area…San Diego’s open data portal features everything from municipal budgets to project status. The site even has information about the tech behind the data, and those that are interested can find out about how the portal was formed and how it has evolved. High-performing cities in the data-driven category of the Equipt survey have a few key indicators in common. First, data is transparent. There is plentiful information on the municipal website, and data is communicated and connected to policies, mandates and activities. Second, data is prioritized. Many cities have a department or designated staff to focus on data. Third, data drives culture. Whether it be investing in digital literacy or using data to create equity, cities use data to transform and improve lives." (Governing)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • Journalists have traditionally had a tough time gaining access to prisons. What's standing in the way? "…the problem of press access to prisons and the like…is a chronic one…What happens in penal institutions is a matter of public concern. But it’s difficult for journalists to cover them. The First Amendment does a generally fine job of guaranteeing rights to communicate, but it’s a fickle source for access rights, which come from a complex system of statutes, regulations, the common law, and a few problematic Supreme Court decisions." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • The FBI agent at the center of controversy over potential misconduct and political bias has been asked to testify publicly. "FBI agent Peter Strzok, a central target of allegations by President Donald Trump and his allies of investigative bias and misconduct, has been subpoenaed to testify publicly on July 10 before two House committees. The subpoena issued Tuesday by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia comes a week after Strzok was interviewed behind closed doors by that committee and members and staff of the Oversight and Government Reform panel." (Bloomberg)
  • Former Rep. Aaron Schock wants the Supreme Court to review his corruption case. "Former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock’s lawyers want to ask the Supreme Court to review his corruption case. Schock’s attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce to continue a stay on his case while they file the necessary paperwork, the Peoria Journal Star reported.  In April, Schock asked for a judge to throw out the case. But in May, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago denied the motion to dismiss charges on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction. Schock is currently facing fraud and federal theft charges based on accusations he used campaign and government money for personal expenses." (Roll Call)
  • New IG report finds that the CFPB needs to improve identity management for its consumer complaint tool. "The web tool the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau uses to track consumer complaints about financial firms and their products should improve its identity management controls, according to the summary of a recent audit report. The agency’s inspector general is not releasing the full report, according to the summary, because of concerns hackers could use it to target the agency. The auditor made one identity management suggestion, which the agency agreed with, according to the summary." (NextGov)

Just pruitt already

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Image via POGO.
  • Two top EPA staffers have shared details with Congressional investigators about Scott Pruitt's controversial spending and management decisions. "Two of Scott Pruitt’s top aides provided fresh details to congressional investigators in recent days about some of the EPA administrator’s most controversial spending and management decisions, including his push to find a six-figure job for his wife at a politically connected group, enlist staffers in performing personal tasks and seek high-end travel despite aides’ objections." (Washington Post)
  • The appointee in charge of FOIA decisions at the EPA used to serve as treasurer of on of Pruitt's PACs. "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt placed a former political fundraising ally in charge of an office that has been slow to release his most sensitive documents — including details about his meetings with industry lobbyists and taxpayer-funded travels across the U.S. and Europe. The role played by Elizabeth Beacham White, the former treasurer of Pruitt’s political action committee, adds to questions about the EPA leader’s pervasive habit of mixing his political, personal and official interests while leading the $8 billion agency. White, who touts an extensive career in the GOP fundraising world, joined EPA in September as director of its Office of the Executive Secretariat, which handles Freedom of Information Act requests for Pruitt’s office." (POLITICO)
  • Meanwhile, the EPA's ethics office is staffing up as scandals continue to mount. "The Environmental Protection Agency is hiring for ethics positions as its chief ethics official has grown more concerned about mounting reports of misconduct by Administrator Scott Pruitt. An agency spokesman on Tuesday confirmed to Government Executive the existence of a letter to the governmentwide Office of Government Ethics sent on June 27 from Kevin Minoli, deputy general counsel and designated agency ethics official, acknowledging multiple referrals of complaints about Pruitt’s behavior to the inspector general." (Government Executive)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • The French Parliament passed a law against "fake news." "French Parliament voted late Tuesday to pass a law cracking down on so-called 'fake news,' allowing courts to rule whether reports published during election periods are credible or should be taken down. The draft law, which ran into fierce criticism during a June 7 debate, will allow election candidates to sue for the removal of contested news reports during election periods, as well as forcing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of funding for sponsored content." (POLITICO)
  • Slovakian civil society is at risk amid increasingly sharp rhetoric, threats of an anti-NGO law. "Slovak officials are increasingly using rhetoric that paints civil society as a danger to the country, which some fear is laying the groundwork for more government oversight — and more ways for those in power to punish non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that they dislike. Former Prime Minister Róbert Fico warned that the government would soon propose and put before parliament a new NGO law…Fico claims that his fall from power was triggered not by genuine public outrage over cronyism and injustice, but rather by an orchestrated intervention by Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist George Soros, along with the NGOs funded by Soros foundations, and Slovak President Andrej Kiska, whom Fico alleges is controlled by Soros." (Global Voices)
  • In the UK, many doctors who take money from drugmakers remain anonymous. "Half of British doctors who received payments from the pharmaceutical industry last year remained anonymous — prompting a call for greater transparency from drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc…About 128 million pounds ($169 million) flowed to medical professionals or organizations in consulting fees, travel expenses, donations and other items, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said Friday. Disclosing which doctors got them is tricky due to data-privacy laws, leaving Astra unable to name the recipients of most of the money. Rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc said it could name them all." (Bloomberg)
  • Will Cambodia's upcoming elections be free, fair, and plural? Civil society isn't so sure. "Liberal, pluralistic, democratic, peaceful, free, fair, and non-violent. These were the words used by a Cambodian state-affiliated press office to describe how the government will conduct the general election scheduled to take place on July 29, 2018. Campaigning starts on July 7…[the words were] likely intended to address the criticism from local and global civil society groups with respect to the deteriorating state of democracy in Cambodia. The Cambodian People's Party has been in power for 33 years under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is considered to be Southeast Asia’s longest-serving head of state." (Global Voices)


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