"The expectations are so high for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke Thursday to say something revealing about more Fed easing that he can probably only disappoint markets." - CNBC, 6/6/12

A week ago, we wrote about Congress and its wrestling match with the issue of bulk legislative data. Many open government activists were unhappy at the time as the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations released a report that essentially passed the responsibility for improving public access to legislative data to a non-public task force with no set reporting date.

However, there is an update, and it is positive.

A statement from House leaders on Wednesday went like this:

“The coming vote on the Legislative Branch appropriations bill marks an important milestone for the House of Representatives:  the moment lawmakers agree to free legislative information from the technical limits of years past and embrace a more open, more transparent, and more effective way of doing the people’s business. Our goal is to provide bulk access to legislative information to the American people without further delay.

“The bill directs a task force to expedite the process of making public information available to the public.  In addition to legislative branch agencies such as the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office, the task force will include representatives of House leadership and key committees, as well as the Clerk of the House and the House Chief Administrative Officer.

“This is a big project.  That’s why accomplishing it rapidly and responsibly requires all those with a role in the collection and dissemination of legislative information to be at the table together.  Because this effort ranks among our top priorities in the 112th Congress, we will not wait for enactment of a Legislative Branch appropriations bill but will instead direct the task force to begin its important work immediately.

Positive, indeed.

The Sunlight Foundation and Daniel Schuman follow up on this development:

The debate over whether there should be bulk access to legislative data is over. Because bulk access is a top priority of the 112th Congress, we expect to see tangible progress in the upcoming months. The remaining questions largely concern how bulk access should be implemented to meet the needs of the public while respecting the legitimate concerns of Congress and its support agencies.

While we are disappointed that the task force will not include members of the public, we hope that the public will be consulted. After all, the American people are the intended end-users. Sunlight and our friends in the transparency community stand ready to be of assistance as the technical, policy, and scope issues are addressed.

While this is clearly progress, there’s still much more to do. We will be monitoring this issue closely.

Perhaps the most important line from this excerpt is the last one, which touches on remaining steadfast. Verbal progress is good, but consistent, tangible steps forward will prove that Congress is true in its initiative about creating transparency.

Kudos to everyone who works tirelessly in this space and pushes for advancement. Let’s see where it goes from here.

— Spencer

  1. skimmerhat posted this
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