Today in OpenGov: There’s good news and bad news.


The good news? The Supreme Court dealt a setback to the Trump administration's attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The bad news? The Supreme Court abdicated itself from responsibility for extreme partisan gerrymandering. All that and much more in today's edition. 

washington watch

A map of the Pennsylvania State Senate districts, colored by party, as of 2009. Via Wikimedia Commons.
  • In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court said that federal courts can't weigh in on partisan gerrymandering… "Partisan gerrymandering is not an issue that can be dealt with by federal courts, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision Thursday, declining to weigh in on two cases that accused politicians in Maryland and North Carolina of rigging their maps in favor of their respective parties…Roberts suggested instead that states and Congress could pass legislation on partisan gerrymandering. And he noted that the courts could continue to weigh in on partisan gerrymandering cases in which there were conflicts with state law, citing a 2015 case in which the Supreme Court struck down maps in Florida. But he noted that there was no similar federal law on the books for the court to consider." (BuzzFeed)
  • …The decision sets up state level fights across the country. "Last year’s elections saw a surging movement to force states to take politics out of map drawing by introducing independent commissioners or demographers who would be in charge of redistricting. Voters in November approved such ballot measures in Colorado, Utah, Michigan and Missouri. Voters in other states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, are making a push for similar changes. There is some movement at the federal level, too, where a Democratic bill known as the For the People Act of 2019 passed the U.S. House in March. Among its many purposes was ending partisan redistricting, although it is unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up the bill." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • The latest Gov404 Tracker update details web changes at the Department of Interior and the Office of Population Affairs at HHS. "Today the Web Integrity Project is adding two examples of removed resources from federal government websites to our Gov404 Tracker: The removal of and the reduction in access to webinar content on the Office of Population Affairs (a part of the Department of Health of Human Services).  Gov404 is a tool for tracking removals of online resources and reductions in access to content on federal websites. The Tracker collects cases where the federal government has removed or reduced access to content, which go beyond articulated policy changes and may have generated unnecessary confusion, or obscured information that itself had significant public value." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • As agencies embrace data-driven decision making, some are looking for corresponding ways to boost transparency. "As agencies evolve to be increasingly data-driven, insiders are working vigorously to elevate public transparency into those federal findings, agency leaders said at a panel held by the Partnership for Public Service in Washington Thursday…While the event framed a newly released report by the Partnership and Grant Thornton on leveraging data and evidence to transform how agencies do business, panelists went into great detail about how their agencies are working to guarantee that the public can obtain new insights from the data and analysis they produce." (NextGov)


Image via Mother Jones.
  • In a complex decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can't add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, at least for now… "The Trump administration cannot add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, at least for now, the US Supreme Court ruled Thursday. In a complicated decision, in which both the court’s liberal and conservative wings joined in part and dissented in part, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Commerce Department, asking for a better explanation of why the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question in the first place." (BuzzFeed)
  • …The decision ultimately hinged on the fact that the administration got caught lying about its rational for adding the question in the first place… "Thursday’s decision also has broader implications for the Supreme Court’s entire relationship to the Trump administration. One of the administration’s distinctive characteristics is its approach to truth and lying. All administrations sometimes hide, shade or slant the truth—and occasionally lie outright. The present administration is different in that it lies regularly, blatantly, heedlessly. In the census case, the Supreme Court, for the first time, called the administration on this behavior—ever so politely and by the slimmest of margins. But still. Now the question is whether it will have the stomach to do so in other cases—or even in this case, if it comes back to the court in the near future." (POLITICO)
  • …President Trump immediately expressed his willingness to delay the Census until his administration could find a new rationale convincing enough for the Supreme Court to let him add the question. "Following the Supreme Court’s decision to block a citizenship question on the 2020 census, President Donald Trump said Thursday he will seek to get it approved, even if the national count is delayed. Hours after the court in a 5-4 opinion held the administration had not properly justified its reason for adding the question, Trump tweeted that he asked attorneys to potentially delay the census in order to bring the case back to the court." (Roll Call)
  • President Trump's Washington, DC hotel charged the Secret Service more than $200,000 in the President's first year in office… "During the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Trump International Hotel in Washington charged the Secret Service more than $200,000 in taxpayer money, including a bill topping $30,000 for two days of use, according to expense documents obtained by NBC News. The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request covering Secret Service expenditures, detail money the agency spent at the property from September 2016 to February 2018, which came to a total of $215,254." (NBCNews)
  • …Speaking of the President's Washington, DC hotel, it is the battleground in a fight over documents between House Democrats and the GSA. "The U.S. agency responsible for government buildings cited confidentiality concerns to justify its hesitation to turn over documents related to the Trump International Hotel to a House committee investigating the role of the president’s company at the historic site. Democrats on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said the General Services Administration’s unwillingness to cooperate was part of a “large-scale coordinated pattern of obstruction.” They added that the agency had been cooperative in turning over documents during previous administrations." (Bloomberg)


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