Today in OpenGov: Access denied.


In today's edition, Wisconsin won't let this disabled lawmaker call in to meetings, the committee trying to modernize Congress agrees on a second round of recommendations, President Trump keeps pushing for more hospital price transparency, and more. 

states and cities

Wisconsin State Representative Jimmy Anderson. Credit: Anderson Campaign.
  • Why won't the Wisconsin legislature let this disabled lawmaker call in to committee meetings? "A state lawmaker who is paralyzed isn’t allowed to participate in committee meetings by phone under a legislative rule that he says keeps him from performing his job as well as he should. Democratic Rep. Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg said the Assembly rule discriminates against him because he has difficulty getting to some meetings for health reasons. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other Republicans who control the Legislature have declined to accommodate his request to call into meetings." (Journal Sentinel)
  • Police use of facial recognition technology faces political and financial challenges. "Cities in California and Massachusetts have banned police use of facial recognition technology over privacy and accuracy concerns. But rolling out the video surveillance technology also could be hampered by another factor— lack of money or staff to make it work. The Orlando Police Department ended its pilot program testing out facial recognition technology this month after it was unable to advance the program as hoped." (Route Fifty)
  • Amazon's home security company works with at least 200 local police departments according to new documents. "At least 200 law enforcement agencies around the country have entered into partnerships with Amazon’s home surveillance company Ring, according to an email obtained by Motherboard via public record request. Ring has never disclosed the exact number of partnerships that it maintains with law enforcement. However, the company has partnered with at least 200 law enforcement agencies, according to notes taken by a police officer during a Ring webinar, which he emailed to himself in April. It’s possible that the number of partnerships has changed since the day the email was sent." (Motherboard)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress unanimously approved its second round of recommendations. "Today the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) unanimously passed their second round of bipartisan congressional recommendations, crafted to provide key opportunities for staffing, technology, and accessibility reform in the U.S. House of Representatives." (Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress) Sunlight was happy to see that, among other useful ideas, the Committee agreed on a recommendation to revive the Office of Technology Assessment. Read more about that via FedScoop.
  • Building an ethical foundation for government data. "In the last decade, we’ve seen amazing advances in technology that have made it easier for companies to create efficiencies, provide client services, and reach the ideal audience for their messages. With the rise of big tech, we’ve seen a surge in big data. This allows organizations unprecedented access to an individual’s personal information, with little control over how and why that data is used. Machine learning and predictive analytics are becoming more ingrained in our daily lives — the shows we watch, the social groups we join, and the transit routes we take are all based on unseen algorithms. While I’m excited for the new opportunities these technological advances present, I’m concerned we are losing sight of an important aspect of how we, as leaders in the public tech space, leverage new technologies while putting the customer first. We need to think about the ethics of data and what an ethical data program looks like. When creating an ethical data framework, we should fulfill these six principles: Ownership, Transparency, Openness, Privacy, Consent, and Literacy." (Government Technology)
  • 2020 Democrats swore off lobbyist and fossil fuel donations, but are they sticking to it? "Among New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s donors to his presidential campaign is a vice president of a leading pharmaceutical company. The senior vice president of Comcast who oversees the company’s lobbying efforts hosted a fundraiser for former vice president Joe Biden. An oil company development and finance manager remains one of former congressman Beto O’Rourke’s most generous donors, including to his presidential campaign. These Democratic presidential hopefuls accepted these contributions, even though they had rejected the help of fossil fuel, pharmaceutical or lobbying industries. According to their campaigns, they did nothing wrong, because their pledges only cover a small group of high-level executives and registered lobbyists." (Washington Post)


Image via Pixabay. 
  • New Trump administration rule would push hospitals to publish discounted prices that they negotiate with insurance companies. "The Trump administration on Monday said it would begin forcing hospitals to publicly disclose the discounted prices they negotiate with insurance companies, a requirement intended to help patients shop for better deals on a range of medical services, from hip replacements to CT scans. The plan, issued as a proposed federal rule, would take effect in January, but would likely be challenged in court by an industry that has long held such rates secret." (New York Times)
  • President Trump's pick for director of national intelligence a big recipient of defense industry cash. "Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), congressman from one of the most conservative districts in the country, will be the next director of national intelligence pending Senate confirmation, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Sunday. The Texas representative is seen as more ideologically aligned with Trump than his predecessor, Dan Coats, who came into conflict with the president over issues including North Korea and Russian election-meddling…Since he first ran for office, Ratcliffe raised $110,500 from the defense sector and $214,976 from the communications and electronics sector. During the 2018 midterms, he received $10,000 contributions from PACs affiliated with AT&T and Northrop Grumman, among others. Ratcliffe is also a favorite of conservative groups, raising $383,664 from ideological and single-issue groups during his career, including $111,105 from donors giving through the Republican-aligned Club for Growth PAC." (Center for Responsive Politics)
  • Trump friend Thomas Barrack sought administration roles while pushing for middle east energy policy that would have helped his business. "Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a Los Angeles-based investor and informal adviser to President Trump, sought powerful positions in the Trump administration in 2017 while pushing a U.S. nuclear energy policy in the Middle East that could benefit his company, according to a new report by congressional Democrats. The allegations detailed in a report released Monday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee come weeks after Barrack was interviewed by federal prosecutors about his work for foreign clients." (Washington Post)
  • The latest Trump administration conflicts include lawsuits, investigations, and subpoenas. "This week, a judge ruled part of a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his company can move forward, Robert Mueller testified and both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump may soon be subpoenaed for records from private text messages and WhatsApp." (Sunlight Foundation


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!