In today's edition, we explore the benefits of increased access to congressionally mandated reports, Puerto Rico's governor faces protests, the House holds the attorney general and commerce secretary in contempt, and more.
- The House passed the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act. Here's what it could accomplish. Yesterday, the House passed "H.R.736, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA). ACMRA would create a central website, run by the Government Printing Office, that would make all congressionally-mandated reports publicly available within 30 days of their submission to Congress (with exceptions for reports that touch on matters of national security and other sensitive topics). The bill seeks to address the less-than-ideal situation that exists now, in which Congress requires agencies to submit reports about their activities and programs as part of proper oversight, but neither tracks the timely submission of those reports nor requires reports be made public, or even read." (Sunlight Foundation) Sunlight strongly supports this legislation and hopes that the Senate passes it as well.
- Between 2006 and 2012 drugmakers sent 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone into American communities. "Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period. As the epidemic surged over the seven-year period, so did the supply. The companies increased distribution from 8.4 billion in 2006 to 12.6 billion in 2012, a jump of roughly 50%…The stunning supply figures were first reported by the Washington Post and come from part of a database compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracked the fate of every opioid pill sold in America, from manufacturers to individual pharmacies. A federal court in Ohio released the data this week as part of a massive consolidated court case against nearly two-dozen opioid makers and distributors, brought by nearly 2,000 cities, towns, and counties." (Ars Technica)
- High profile 2020 Senate races have at least one thing in common. Huge amounts of money. "Within one week of announcing that she'd challenge GOP Sen. Susan Collins in Maine, Democrat Sara Gideon raised more than $1 million — nearly half of what Collins’ challenger six years ago raised for the entire two-year cycle. But Collins also shattered her own fundraising record, topping $2 million in a quarter for the first time in her Senate career…In Senate battlegrounds across the map, Democratic challengers are launching their campaigns with substantial fundraising hauls, relying on small-dollar donors to jump out of the gate with significant amounts of cash. But Senate Republicans, who are mostly on defense this cycle, are also setting a blistering pace, and incumbents are using established fundraising networks to stockpile formidable war chests." (POLITICO)
- USDA launches online tool to make it easier for farmers to find federal loans. "Capital is critical when it comes to maintaining the viability of America’s agriculture and farmers across the nation depend on direct loans from the Agriculture Department to fund and boost their business operations. To support producers in identifying the Agriculture loans that best meet their specific needs, the agency launched a new Farm Loan Discovery Tool through farmers.gov Wednesday." (NextGov)
states and cities
- Protesters take to the streets calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico's governor. "Some of Puerto Rico's biggest stars rallied a crowd of many thousands in San Juan on Wednesday calling on the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to resign. It was the fifth day in a row of protests following a leak of hundreds of pages of misogynistic and homophobic texts between the governor and his main advisers…Tensions ratcheted up in the evening as protesters burst through a barricade at the governor's mansion, and security forces fired tear gas at the crowd, causing many to flee into surrounding streets." (NPR)
- Watchdog groups call on Pennsylvania to examine election machines for security flaws. "Four watchdog groups are calling on Pennsylvania to re-examine a widely used election machine, citing concerns about its security and accessibility. Citizens for Better Elections, Free Speech for People, Protect Our Vote Philly and the National Election Defense Coalition filed a petition Tuesday requesting acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar examine the ExpressVote XL electronic voting machines built by Election Systems & Software, one of the largest election equipment manufacturers in the U.S." (The Hill)
- The Washington, DC police department doesn't want to release public records of a public police discipline hearing. "Are records of a public police discipline hearing, including the transcript and exhibits, to be locked away afterwards as though it never happened? MPD in March denied such a records request by the Public Defender Service and has not responded to a decision by the mayor overruling that denial. Now the case has landed in Superior Court. Police department misconduct terminations, as proposed in this case, are rare. Public appeal hearings airing the details are even more unusual." (DC Open Government Coalition)
- The House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt over Census citizenship question documents. "The House voted Wednesday evening to hold Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for their refusal to turn over key documents related to the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The citations for two cabinet officials, approved 230 to 198, will breathe new life into a dispute that has touched all three branches of government over why Trump administration officials pushed to ask census respondents if they were American citizens and what that question’s effect would be." (New York Times)
- The federal investigation into Trump Organization over potential campaign finance violations tied to hush money payments ends. "Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization's role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed Wednesday. CNN reported Friday that the Manhattan US Attorney's office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn't poised to charge any executives involved in the company's effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations." (CNN)
- A key member of a State Department team set to negotiate with Russia was held back following revelations of ties with operative caught up in Maria Butina controversy. "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern about sending one of his top arms control negotiators, Andrea Thompson, to head a U.S. delegation meeting with Russia’s deputy foreign minister this week after it was revealed that she had failed to disclose her ties to the boyfriend of Russian foreign agent Maria Butina. So Pompeo dispatched his deputy, John Sullivan, to lead the delegation instead." (POLITICO)
- A top scientific integrity official from the EPA was prevented from testifying at a House hearing. "On Capitol Hill today, a House committee held a hearing to discuss a proposal that would protect federal scientists from political interference. And NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports the top scientific integrity official from the Environmental Protection Agency was not allowed to testify." (NPR)
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