Today in OpenGov: You exempted yourself.


In today's edition, we continue a conversation around critical questions for 'smart city' tech, why dietary supplements and regulation still don't mix, President Trump looks to prevent fundraising leaks, and more. 

states and cities

Brainstorming critical questions for smart cities, via Sunlight Foundation.
  • A continued conversation around critical questions on 'smart city' tech. Daniel Honker from the City of Austin, Kenya Asli from the City of Baltimore, and Greg Jordan-Detamore from the Sunlight Foundation shared that "at last month’s Code for America Summit in Oakland, the three of us ran a workshop focused on identifying critical questions cities need to ask to ensure “smart cities” and emerging technology projects are focused on people and outcomes, and not just tech. This post recaps what we heard in that session, and invites you to help us keep the conversation going." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Advocates sound the alarm over bill that would make it easy for the Texas Legislature to avoid public records rules. "Proponents of government transparency are warning that a little-noticed bill, now sitting on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, could gut public access to the Texas Legislature’s internal communications. Some are urging Abbott to reject the measure before the deadline to veto bills ends this weekend. Among them is First Amendment lawyer Joe Larsen, a member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, who calls House Bill 4181 a “knife in the dark” that will make it harder to hold lawmakers accountable." (Texas Tribune via NFOIC)
  • Florida looks likely to limit ex-felon voting rights, despite overwhelming voter support. "Seven months ago, almost two-thirds of voters approved Amendment 4, which restores registration rights to many felons. Florida had been one of three states, along with Kentucky and Iowa, where those convicted of a felony were permanently prohibited from registering without going through a lengthy clemency process, and many saw Floridians’ vote as bringing the state into the U.S. mainstream. Only those convicted of murder and sexual offenses still are excluded. However, Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a bill within days that critics say will blunt much of Amendment 4’s impact. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require felons to pay off restitution, court fees and fines before registering — a move that voting rights advocates say could have a chilling effect." (Bloomberg)
  • Police departments around the country are launching investigations in the wake of a watchdog roundup of offensive social media posts. "Law enforcement agencies in Dallas and Florida on Thursday became the latest to announce they are investigating allegations some of their employees made offensive comments on Facebook after a watchdog group compiled screenshots of the posts and shared them in an online database. The screenshots of the public posts, published in the Plain View Project's online database, purport to show officers or police department employees making hateful or racist remarks." (CNN)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • Inside the dietary supplement industry's efforts to keep regulations at bay. "In early June, at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals seized more than 300,000 containers of dietary supplements, including tablets, capsules and teas from Life Rising Corp. that were manufactured and distributed under conditions that do not meet the FDA’s manufacturing requirements. Despite the FDA’s plans to modernize regulation of dietary supplements, any firm regulatory changes are still a distant prospect. The nutritional and dietary supplement industry has long had strong allies in Congress who support industry-friendly legislation that maintains the status quo of self-regulation." (OpenSecrets)
  • Three VA whistleblowers outline claims of agency retaliation. "Three Veterans Affairs health care professionals who reported patient care issues say the agency continues to try to silence them, jeopardizing veterans and undercutting a key Trump promise of whistleblower protection. They work at different sites – in the Phoenix area, Baltimore, and Iowa City, Iowa – yet the VA response has been similar. All were stripped of assigned patient-care and oversight duties, and they suspect VA managers are retaliating against them for speaking out, and sidelining them to prevent them from discovering or disclosing any more problems with veteran health care." (USA Today)
  • Former Hill staffers team up on nonprofit effort to help Congress rebuild its atrophied oversight muscles. "Recognizing that Congress was at a significant disadvantage in its dealings with the Trump White House and corporate America, Mr. Schiliro; a congressional colleague, Phil Barnett; and a group of former senior Democratic staff members are taking a unique approach to try to fill some of the experience gap. They have formed a nonprofit to volunteer their skill set to the House and Senate as Congress rebuilds its oversight muscle in what is certain to be a continuing clash with the executive branch…Co-Equal is funded by donors, and those who enlist with it are available to consult with congressional aides seeking guidance on messaging or how to move ahead with inquiries in the face of stiff White House resistance. One requirement of participating is that the staff cannot be engaged in any lobbying." (New York Times)
  • Incumbents who lost their 2018 reelection bids are still sitting on more than $11 million in campaign cash. "Democrats and Republicans who lost their congressional seats in last year’s midterm elections may have packed up their offices and turned in their voting cards, but there’s one valuable asset they can hold on to — campaign committees. The 39 incumbents who lost reelection are still sitting on a combined $11.2 million in unspent campaign committee cash according to Federal Elections Commission reports filed as of the end of March. The 33 ousted Republicans, mostly from the House, are holding onto $3.8 million. The six Democrats who lost office have a combined $7.3 million." (OpenSecrets)


A leaky pipe. Image via Pixabay.
  • President Trump's reelection campaign is taking unprecedented action against leaks at its fundraisers. "When Naples, Fla., resident Joseph Fogg III, a longtime GOP fundraiser, arrived last month at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for a donor conference benefiting the president’s reelection campaign, he was asked by the organizers to place his phone inside a lockable pouch. Only after leaving the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom, where top Trump surrogates and Vice President Mike Pence privately addressed well-connected GOP donors, could Fogg retrieve his phone from the Yondr — a magnetic device familiar to high school students who’ve grown accustomed to placing their phones inside before class, but surprising to some of the president’s richest supporters — by tapping it on an unlocking base controlled by the fundraiser’s organizers." (POLITICO)
  • The VA kept a controversial, Trump backed, drug from its approved prescription list. "A Department of Veterans Affairs panel has pushed back against efforts to rush a controversial anti-depression drug into use for its patients, voting not to include the drug, Spravato, on its list of drugs available through prescription at its pharmacies. The VA had been racing to get Spravato ready for patients after President Trump, according to VA sources, urged the agency to buy the Johnson & Johnson drug for treatment-resistant depression. But psychiatrists and medical researchers, including some at the VA, have raised questions about the drug’s effectiveness and safety." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Prosecutors are investigating if top Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy sold access to inaugural events. "Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Elliott Broidy, the top GOP fundraiser who previously served as the Republican National Committee's (RNC) deputy finance chairman, used his position to improperly offer access to President Trump's inaugural team. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that investigators are looking at whether Broidy was paid by his clients, including an intelligence firm, for access to inaugural events at his invitation, which would violate campaign finance laws or possibly statutes against money laundering." (The Hill)


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