In today's edition, the Trump administration finally releases an Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, this North Carolina Congressional seat gets a new election, an updated guide to state level open government laws, and more.
- After significant delays and with little fanfare, the Trump administration released its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. "With little fanfare or notice, the United States of America has published a fourth National Action Plan for Open Government for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The USA was automatically placed under review in January, but not because of two years of regression on transparency, accountability, and brazen corruption. The plan was was simply late, after failing to deliver a new plan for the multi-stakeholder initiative for years. The new “national action plan” is notable for its lack of ambition, specificity or relevance backsliding on democracy in the USA under the Trump administration." (E Pluribus Unum)
- New Jersey revives an effort to block President Trump from the 2020 ballot if he doesn't release his tax returns. "New Jersey Democrats are reviving a controversial effort to force President Donald Trump to release his tax returns or be denied a spot on the state's 2020 ballot. The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill — which the Legislature passed once before, in 2017, but which then-Gov. Chris Christie blocked by issuing a scathing veto — that would prohibit candidates for president and vice president from appearing on the ballot unless they make their tax returns public." (Courier Post)
- House Democrats accuse Trump administration of withholding key information on negotiations with North Korea. "Just a week before President Donald Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, key Democratic House chairmen accused the president on Thursday of withholding information about his administration’s negotiations with North Korea…Trump is preparing to meet for a second time with Kim next week in Vietnam. The lawmakers said the Trump administration has yet to fully brief Congress about the president’s first summit with Kim, which took place last June in Singapore. They demanded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brief House members about the Vietnam summit within seven days." (POLITICO)
- The latest Trump administration conflicts include undermined investigations, the inaugural committee chair, and more. Lynn Walsh's look at the week in Trump conflicts includes "the New York Times outlines how President Donald Trump has tried to undermine investigations into his presidency, the latest episode of Trump, Inc. takes an in-depth look at Tom Barrack and Democrats launch an investigation into how White House officials handled a proposal to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia." (Sunlight Foundation)
- Ten years later, assessing the Recovery Act's legacy on federal spending transparency. "Ten years ago this month, Congress responded to the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act)…So, ten years on, what do we know about the effects of the Recovery Act? Today’s WatchBlog explores GAO’s work related to the scope of the Recovery Act and longer-term effects on the transparency of federal spending." (GAO Watch Blog)
- Making a case to revive the Office of Technology Assessment. Sasha Moss writes, "how do we ensure that our lawmakers — the ones policing Silicon Valley — do so in a measured, thoughtful way instead of crippling emerging industry giants just because Congress can’t keep up with them? As a former staffer who now works at a think tank that focuses on technology policy and capacity issues in Congress, I struggle with this question every day…Technology issues are not going away any time soon. It seems like every other day, another Silicon Valley company has moved fast and broken things in a way that jeopardizes consumer trust. Congress has jurisdiction over these issues, but without a dedicated technology research arm, legislative staff are going to have to continue to learn about these complex topics in 48 hours — if they are lucky. And if they can’t learn these issues in time, they will continue to seek out third-party expertise, often in the form of advice from lobbyists. It’s time that we provide congressional staff with the technology expertise they need." (Roll Call)
- North Carolina's 9th Congressional district will hold a new election in wake of absentee ballot tampering scandal. "The North Carolina State Elections Board voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to hold a new election in North Carolina's 9th District. Their vote came after Republican Mark Harris's stunning call for a new election following his admission that he misspoke during his testimony earlier in the day…After last fall’s voting, Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. But the State Board of Elections had refused to certify the results because of allegations of tampering with absentee ballots." (Roll Call)
- 2016 Congressional candidate charged with wire fraud, election law violations. "A former Republican congressional candidate in Rhode Island has been charged with wire fraud and violating federal election law. H. Russell Taub, who ran unsuccessfully in 2016 against incumbent Rep. David Cicilline (D), has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, The Providence Journal reported Wednesday, citing court documents. Taub is being charged with using more than $1 million in political donations for personal use." (The Hill)
states and cities
- Key resource on state level open government gets an update. "On January 4, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press published the latest edition of its Open Government Guide—an indispensable resource for journalists navigating the tricky waters of government access, and a go-to compendium of state-level sunshine laws for 30 years. The guide, which is free and online, provides users with up-to-date statutory and case law governing access to public records and meetings in their state." (Columbia Journalism Review)
- The Kansas state capitol is in need of a streaming signal boost. "For those who can’t visit the statehouse every day, keeping an eye on the Kansas Legislature isn’t easy. A number of lawmakers, including Gov. Laura Kelly, have been pushing for more transparency, but blind spots still remain. One of the most notable is the lack of live video streams. Only the House of Representatives and the Senate are carried live via YouTube. Committee hearings, on the other hand, are available only through online audio. Which is not always audible." (Government Technology)
- An effort to extend public records requirements to the Washington State Legislature is dead, but the broader idea lives on. "A bill slated to extend certain aspects of the public records act to the Washington State Legislature is dead following a heated public hearing. Senate Bill 5784, introduced by Senator Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) earlier this month would have removed the legislature’s longstanding exemption to the Washington Public Records Act and added three exemptions for constituent communications, whistleblower information, and records related to the “deliberative process” of lawmakers…Media outlets and transparency advocates took the biggest concern with the bills directive to withhold records generated in the “deliberative process” of lawmaking, or in other words, lawmakers thought process into generating state legislation. These records include draft bills, staff analysis, and communications between lawmakers or staff discussing legislation." (MuckRock)
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