franking update -- reforms pass!

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John Wonderlich

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Oct 2, 2008, 2:15:41 PM10/2/08
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Looks like the Committee on House Administration has come a long way since the recent Roll Call article citing discord:

Sounds like a great step forward!  Can't wait to find more specifics...

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, October 2, 2008   FOR MORE INFORMATION, Contact
Salley Collins, Press Secretary

(202) 225-8281 E-mail: salley....@mail.house.gov   
  
Press Release: Committee Adopts New Web Regulations Committee on House Administration Adopts Proposal Permitting Members to Utilize Outside Websites to Communicate with Constituents WASHINGTON – The Committee on House Administration adopted new web regulations that will permit Members to use outside websites like YouTube to communicate with constituents.  The new regulations, which are based upon a proposal presented in June by GOP Members of the Committee, represent a vital step to providing new, uncensored channels of communication between Members of Congress and their constituents. The new web regulations, which were adopted via Committee poll, permit Members to post content on outside websites so long as the content is for "official purposes," and not personal, commercial or campaign related. Ranking Republican Vern Ehlers, R-Mich., applauded Committee Chairman Robert Brady, D-Pa., for his leadership and ability to achieve policy agreements in a nonpartisan fashion. "Mr. Brady recognized the need to allow enhanced constituent communication, and demonstrated outstanding leadership that enabled this Committee to adopt a long-overdue change," Ehlers stated.  "It is imperative that Members have the ability to use whichever web services they feel will best inform their constituents about the important issues facing this country." For more information, please contact the Committee press office at (202) 225-8281.  


David All

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Oct 2, 2008, 2:21:01 PM10/2/08
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Good news. 

Congratulations to The Open House Project team that made these recommendations and helped pave the way in the Committee for action.

However, I believe it took the Senate's leadership on this issue to move the ball forward in the House.

David
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John Wonderlich

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Oct 2, 2008, 2:38:04 PM10/2/08
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I'm told that the following is the new reg, which looks great!  -based on the official content of the outside site. 

NEW REG:

In addition to their official (house.gov) Web site, a Member may maintain another Web site(s), channel(s) or otherwise post material on third-party Web sites.

 

The official content of any material posted by the Member on any Web site must be in compliance with Federal law and House Rules and Regulations applicable to official communications and germane to the conduct of the Member's official and representational duties.

 

When a link to a Web site outside the Member's official cite is imbedded on the Member's official site, the Member's site must include an exit notice advising the visitor when they are leaving the House. This exit notice must also include a disclaimer that neither the Member nor the House is responsible for the content of the linked site(s).

 

Chairman is authorized to make technical and conforming changes to facilitate inclusion into the Committees and Member handbooks.

John Wonderlich

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Oct 2, 2008, 11:56:25 PM10/2/08
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...and a post from the Speaker, thanking this community in particular.  (congrats, all!)

Speaker Pelosi Applauds Committee on House Administration Action on Web Rules

October 2nd, 2008 by Karina

Speaker Pelosi released the following statement on the Committee on House Administration's adoption of new web regulations that will permit posting of official content outside the house.gov domain:

The rule revisions adopted by the Committee on House Administration today are a significant step forward toward bringing House rules into the multimedia age and allowing for Members to effectively communicate with their constituents online.

I commend Chairman Brady for his leadership and for the committee's bipartisan efforts to modernize the antiquated franking regulations to address the realities of communications in the internet age. I also thank citizen initiatives such as the Open House Project for their thoughtful recommendations and continued efforts to encourage Members to engage their constituents through internet technologies.

In the 110th Congress, the House has made significant progress to increase transparency through technology – from webcasting more committee hearings to posting lobbying disclosure forms online. Openness, transparency, and accountability are the hallmarks of the New Direction Congress. We will continue our efforts to be a web 2.0 House in the 111th Congress.

From Chairman Brady:

October 2, 2008 (Washington, DC): House Administration Chairman Robert A. Brady announced that the Committee has approved revisions to rules governing the use of web video on Member websites. The rule revisions largely parallel changes introduced by the Senate and create an environment in which Member offices have expanded options for posting video content on their official websites.

"I am happy to report that the Committee has approved revisions to the rules governing the use of web video on Member websites. The new rules reflect a greater recognition of the need to provide flexible solutions to the opportunities and challenges presented by new and emerging technologies. I applaud Speaker Pelosi for being a leader in implementing these new technologies and for establishing that as a priority."

The new rules allow Members to place web content on sites outside of the house.gov domain, ending a longstanding restriction that had grown more difficult to comply with as new communications and outreach technologies emerged.

"Over the past several years, we have witnessed an incredible pace of technological innovation and development," said Brady. "Today, we have taken an important step in ensuring that we can utilize these and future innovations to the benefit of our constituents."

The new web video rule language:

In addition to their official (house.gov) Web site, a Member may maintain another Web site(s), channel(s) or otherwise post material on third-party Web sites.

The official content of any material posted by the Member on any Web site must be in compliance with Federal law and House Rules and Regulations applicable to official communications and germane to the conduct of the Member's official and representational duties.

When a link to a Web site outside the Member's official cite is imbedded on the Member's official site, the Member's site must include an exit notice advising the visitor when they are leaving the House. This exit notice must also include a disclaimer that neither the Member nor the House is responsible for the content of the linked site(s).

Chairman is authorized to make technical and conforming changes to facilitate inclusion into the Committees and Member handbooks.

John Wonderlich

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Oct 3, 2008, 6:09:46 PM10/3/08
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...and finally, a post wrapping up what happened.  I think this is finally a situation we can call an unqualified victory!  :)

http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/2008/10/03/franking-reform-a-happy-ending/

Franking Reform: A Happy Ending

October 3rd, 2008 by John Wonderlich · No Comments

Yesterday, after months of negotiations and proposals, the House joined the Senate in updating the arcane guidelines that govern how Members of Congress use the Internet.

In May of 2007, the Sunlight Foundation released the Open House Project report, which included an entire chapter on the issue of Franking Reform.  That chapter, prepared by David All and Paul Blumental, has guided our advocacy and discussions of web use restrictions since then.

Those discussions simmered until earlier this summer, when tensions between Members of the Franking Commission  briefly escalated (the part of the Committee on House Administration that handles Web restrictions).  This summer's discussion caught some media attention, and unsettled some web-savvy Representatives, and ultimately engaged both parties' leaders in the House.

The Sunlight Foundation capitalized on the chaos, creating the first twitter-based petition in the site letourcongresstweet.org, which amassed twitter-based signatures, and displayed vigorous support for updated rules from online communities across the political spectrum.

While House officials maneuvered publicly, the Senate passed similar reforms with a bit less fanfare.  As recently as last week, agreement looked unlikely from the House committee, with Roll Call reporting that an attempt at negotiations ended in "an emotionally charged hearing and a breakdown in negotiations."

That's why we were suprised and delighted to get word from the Committee on House Administration that a new agreement had been reached.  This measure wasn't just a slight rewrite, however.  The new guidelines represent an enormous change, one which has new media staff from both parties glowing.

Speaker Pelosi's statement calls the revisions a "significant step forward toward bringing the House rules into the multimedia age and allowing for members to effectively communicate with their constituents online…  I also thank citizen initiatives such as the Open House Project for their thoughtful recommendations and continued efforts to encourage Members to engage their constituents through internet technologies."

Ranking Member Vern Ehlers was similarly laudatory of the new rules, and of Chairman Brady's leadership: "Mr. Brady recognized the need to allow enhanced constituent communication, and demonstrated outstanding leadership that enabled this Committee to adopt a long-overdue change," Ehlers stated. "It is imperative that Members have the ability to use whichever web services they feel will best inform their constituents about the important issues facing this country."

The new rules, as written, make a very important distinction, and one we're delighted to see considered: Member web use will be evaluated based on the "official content," and not the venue in which the materials are posted.  This puts new media communications on similar footing to traditional media, where Op-Eds and TV interviews are proximal to commercials without causing a conflict of interest.

The revisions should cause a renaissance in official political Web-use, with eager new media staff and savvy Members now able to confidently engage with their constituents.  We can't wait to see what they come up with, and can only hope that all government reform arguments have such happy endings.

Tags: openhouseproject

David All

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Oct 3, 2008, 6:20:38 PM10/3/08
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Great post John. Congratulations.

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