Today in OpenGov: Bills, bills, bills


In today's edition, we explore how openness is being leveraged to improve social services, the Senate votes to strengthen transition team ethics requirements, President Trump's re-election campaign spends heavily on Facebook ads about an "invasion" at the southern border, and more. 

states and cities

The Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC. 
  • How open contracting can help open up decisions in the social services ecosystem. "In her TED talk in 2015, Hillary Cottam, a social entrepreneur and design research expert, highlighted the ways in which social service systems are broken: entangled in a world of government contracts. Social service systems, by design, place a significant administrative and reporting burden on case managers and social workers already responsible for caring for those with the highest need in our society.  Cottam and other experts trying to find innovative solutions for the challenges in our social service systems have all converged on a fundamental point: people and their communities need to be at the center of how we design these systems in order for them to work.  Today, innovation labs like the City of Austin’s iTeam, design research firms like Reboot, or data-centered initiatives like Open Referral tackle different issues under the big umbrella of social service reform. By working inside and outside of governments to make programs run more smoothly, these reformers hope to usher in a new era of collaborative, open, responsive design in social services." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Group sues to block California candidate tax transparency law. "A conservative legal group has filed a lawsuit seeking to block a new California law aimed at forcing Republican U.S. President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, the latest volley over Democrats’ efforts to see the former businessman’s financial records. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Sacramento on Aug. 1 by the group Judicial Watch, argues the statute is unconstitutional because it sets up illegal new rules governing who can seek the presidency." (Reuters)
  • Puerto Rico's Supreme Court is set to rule on the chaos around the island's next governor. "Puerto Rico’s roiling political crisis has entered a new phase, with the U.S. territory’s top court agreeing to consider whether newly sworn Governor Pedro Pierluisi assumed the office legally. The island’s supreme court responded rapidly to a lawsuit filed Sunday by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz seeking an order to force Pierluisi to give up the functions of the office. The court ordered all sides to submit written arguments by Tuesday at noon." (Bloomberg)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • Groups file petition to shed light on millions that flow through special accounts held by national parties. "The Center and Responsive Politics and the Campaign Legal Center have filed a petition with the Federal Election Commission to require full, transparent financial reporting of the millions of dollars that pass through national political parties’ special-purpose bank accounts. Current FEC regulations leave the public in the dark regarding money received and spent by national party committees through these opaque special-purpose accounts. Established under a 2015 omnibus bill, these so-called “cromnibus” accounts are not required to disclose basic information, and it is nearly impossible to track all contributions to these accounts under the current reporting structure." (Center for Responsive Politics)
  • The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to boost ethics requirements, clarify GSA's role for presidential transition teams. "On Thursday the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would clarify the duties of the General Services Administration during presidential changeovers as well as require presidential candidates to publicly release ethics plans for their transitions before the election .Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., introduced the “2019 Presidential Transitions Enhancement Act” (S. 394) in February. Some of the provisions in the bill are a result of a complaint by President Trump’s team and others are an attempt to address additional obstacles that came up during the Obama-Trump transition." (Government Executive)
  • Work for a federal agency? Interested in helping OMB implement the Federal Data Strategy? This opportunity might be for you. "The Office of Management and Budget wants up to three detailees to help agencies implement the Federal Data Strategy starting Oct. 1…Detailees would work with agencies completing various actions while also helping develop a year-two action plan, stand up the Chief Data Officer Council, and reach out to stakeholders…Career federal employees who are General Schedule-13 to -15, senior level, or Senior Executive Service can apply with a letter of recommendation from their supervisor by Aug. 9. Home agencies must agree to pay detailees’ salaries while they work at OMB’s office in Washington, D.C." (FedScoop)
  • Agencies were supposed to make the name of their CDO public by last week. Here's who met the deadline. "As of July 13, all CFO Act agencies were to have appointed a nonpolitical chief data officer. This requirement of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act included a little wiggle room, however — the law set a separate deadline of Aug. 2 for agencies to post the name of this official publicly and inform the White House Office of Management and Budget of their choice. So now that the second deadline has come and gone — where do we stand? Agency response to the new requirement, it turns out, is a bit of a mixed bag." (FedScoop)


A follow-up invoice sent on July 18, 2019, to President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign committee by El Paso city government. Via Center for Public Integrity.
  • President Trump's re-election campaign still owes El Paso, Texas hundreds of thousands of dollars. "President Donald Trump has pledged the federal government will provide “whatever is needed” to help El Paso, Texas, recover from a mass shooting Saturday that killed 22 people. But Trump’s own 2020 re-election committee still hasn’t paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in police and public safety-related bills and late fees that El Paso city officials say it owes from Trump’s campaign visit on Feb. 11." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Trump's re-election campaign has also spent heavily on Facebook ads pushing the idea of an "invasion" on the southern border. "President Trump’s re-election campaign has harnessed Facebook advertising to push the idea of an 'invasion' at the southern border, amplifying the fear-inducing language about immigrants that he has also voiced at campaign rallies and on Twitter. Since January, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word “invasion” — part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging." (New York Times)
  • This USDA climate scientist quit, citing the Trump administration's efforts to bury his study linking carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to a loss of nutrients in rice. "One of the nation’s leading climate change scientists is quitting the Agriculture Department in protest over the Trump administration’s efforts to bury his groundbreaking study about how rice is losing nutrients because of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Lewis Ziska, a 62-year-old plant physiologist who’s worked at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for more than two decades, told POLITICO he was alarmed when department officials not only questioned the findings of the study — which raised serious concerns for the 600 million people who depend on rice for most of their calories — but also tried to minimize media coverage of the paper, which was published in the journal Science Advances last year." (POLITICO)
  • The latest Trump administration conflicts include Kushner's Baltimore properties, another Hatch Act violation, and more. "This week, a group of California voters is suing to block a new law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, more allegations Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act and a look at complaints about Baltimore-area properties owned by Kushner Companies." (Sunlight Foundation)


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