In today's edition, President Trump signs a key open data bill, new details on Trump's inauguration spending, New York brings its election laws into the 21st century, and more.
- Yesterday, President Trump signed a major open data bill into law. "Today, President Trump signed into law the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking (FEBP) Act (H.R. 4174, S. 2046), which includes the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act (Title II). The package passed Congress on Monday, December 31, 2018. The OPEN Government Data Act requires all non-sensitive government data to be made available in open and machine-readable formats by default. It establishes Chief Data Officers (CDO) at federal agencies, as well as a CDO Council. The law’s mission is to improve operational efficiencies and government services, reduce costs, increase public access to government information, and spur innovation and entrepreneurship. This is a win for evidence-based decision-making within the government." (Data Coalition)
- After latest in a string of racist remarks, the House GOP has stripped Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his committee assignments. "House Republican leadership will remove Iowa Rep. Steve King from his committee assignments, including the powerful House Judiciary Committee, following his latest racist remarks. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Monday evening, after huddling with his leadership, that King would not sit on any committees this Congress because of his comments. Leadership told reporters after the meeting that the decision was unanimous." (BuzzFeed)
- More than two dozen new members of Congress have already launched leadership PACs. "The newest class of congressional lawmakers — some of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate influence in politics — is rapidly adopting a practice that critics say is among the swampier in Washington. More than two dozen new members of the House and Senate — including prominent freshmen such as New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — have established so-called leadership PACs, according to data compiled by government watchdog group Issue One. Leadership PACs are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to raise money for their colleagues and candidates." (Roll Call)
- Supreme Court declines to hear a case that could have weakened individual contribution limits to candidates. "Very good news for supporters of campaign finance contribution limits to candidates: the Supreme Court without noted dissent has turned down Lair v. Magnan, a case which could have been the basis to attack all individual contribution limits to candidates." (Election Law Blog)
- President Trump's inauguration cost more than $100 million, twice as much as George W. Bush or Barack Obama's celebrations. "Private donors put up $107 million to usher Donald J. Trump into office in style two years ago, and it is now clear just how enthusiastically his inaugural committee went to town with it…In 72 days, it laid out about $100 million, roughly twice as much or more than was raised by Barack Obama or George W. Bush for their first and second presidential inaugurations…Disclosure of the spending details comes at a time when the inaugural committee is facing legal scrutiny over the donations that funded it." (New York Times)
- President Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is facing scrutiny over a real estate deal gone wrong. "Mick Mulvaney was a young businessman and budding politician 11 years ago when he became co-owner of a company that wanted to build a strip mall near a busy intersection in this upscale bedroom community outside Charlotte…The company cobbled together the financing — which included borrowing $1.4 million from a family firm owned by a prominent local businessman named Charles Fonville Sr…Fonville, however, said his company has not received the $2.5 million with interest that he said it is owed." (Washington Post)
- In written testimony, President Trump's nominee for attorney general promises to let the Mueller probe finish its work. "President Trump's nominee to serve as attorney general vowed to permit Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his work and said it was "very important" for the public and Congress to know the results. William Barr told members of Congress in written testimony ahead of his confirmation hearings on Tuesday that he's confident Mueller is handling his investigation properly and that he would be as open as possible when it's complete." (NPR)
- Ivanka Trump is not in the running to be the next head of the World Bank, but she will help decide who fills the post next. "Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, will play a role in helping to select the next head of the World Bank, the White House said Monday. Ms. Trump, who had been rumored to be a contender for the position herself, will not be a candidate, a Trump administration official said. But she will assist the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in choosing a successor to Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank who announced last week he would be stepping down." (New York Times)
states and cities
- New York votes to reform its antiquated voting and elections laws. "After years of lagging behind other states, New York radically overhauled its system of voting and elections on Monday, passing several bills that would allow early voting, preregistration of minors, voting by mail and sharp limits on the influence of money. The bills, which were passed by the State Legislature on Monday evening, bring New York in line with policies in other liberal bastions like California and Washington, and they would quiet, at least for a day, complaints about the state’s antiquated approach to suffrage." (New York Times)
- A proposed bill would require records requesters in Oregon to explain what they want to do with the documents they seek, raising concerns from transparency advocates. "The 2019 Legislative session is set to begin later this month, but legislators in Oregon already have a hefty number of public records related bills to look forward too. Although positive reforms are included in the list of proposed bills, one piece of legislation is causing a stir among transparency advocates…Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) at the request of former Representative Deborah Boone, would require requesters to disclose the intended use for records being requested with any state agency." (MuckRock)
- Know an open government hero in your state? Consider nominating them to the Open Government Hall of Fame. "The National Freedom of Information Coalition is seeking nominations for this year’s 'Heroes of the Fifty States,' the Open Government Hall of Fame. The open government hall of fame recognizes individuals for their 'long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.' Formal induction takes place at the annual Freedom of Information Summit. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the FOI Summit and the induction will occur on Saturday, April 13th, in Dallas, Texas. The State Open Government Hall of Fame is open to anyone who has made a substantial, sustained and lasting contribution to open government or freedom of information within a particular state…The deadline for nominations is February 22, 2019." (NFOIC)
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