Please sign on in support the "Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act" by COB today

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Daniel Schuman

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Dec 7, 2017, 11:33:26 AM12/7/17
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Please sign on to this letter in support of the "Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act" by COB today (Thursday). The bill is set for bicameral, bipartisan introduction on Friday (the leads are Rep. Quigley in the House and Sens. Portman and Klobuchar in the Senate). A markup is likely as soon as next week.


WHAT: ACMRA requires agencies to send all the reports they are required to submit to Congress to the Government Publishing Office for publication on their website (after going through a FOIA-like review to remove any confidential/classified info). It also requires that CRS make a list of all mandated reports and for GPO to keep track of whether agencies submit the mandated reports (including whether they do so on time). ACMRA also provides for bulk access to the reports, open formats, etc.

WHY: Congress mandates that agencies submit ~5,000 reports annually to Congress, but no one keeps track of the reports and there's no central repository. As a result, the reports often get lost, are unavailable to other staff that might be interested, and result in duplicate reports. The public can access these reports, but often if they are posted online or after going through a lengthy FOIA process. ACMRA will make all the reports available in one central location so everyone can find them (in addition to requiring an unredacted version be submitted directly to Congress). It also will provide a backstop so we can see which agencies are behind on meeting their reporting requirements.

BACKGROUND: Similar versions of the legislation have twice been favorably reported by the committees of jurisdiction in the House, but now there's a real chance the Senate rules committee will consider the legislation (as Sen. Klobuchar is the ranking member of that committee). The GPO has said they will paid for their part of the costs of the bill out of currently appropriated funds (i.e. no new money is required), and prior CBO scores put the first year cost at $600k and subsequent years at $200k, which is de minimus.

The text of the bill, a one-pager, and a FAQ are attached to this email. The text of the letter is below (and at this link). (We reserve the right to make grammatical edits, but won't make any substantive changes without telling you first.) A list of signatories is here. As of Wednesday at 4:30, the following 27 organizations have signed on: 

American Association of Law Libraries, American Civil Liberties Union, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Bahr Law Offices, P.C., Campaign for Accountability, Center for Data Innovation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Action, Essential Information, Free Government Information, Government Information Watch, GovTrack.us, In the Public Interest, Liberty Coalition, National Coalition for History, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Security Archive, National Security Counselors, OpenTheGovernment, Quorum, R Street Institute, Rural Coalition, Sage Information Services, Society of Professional Journalists, Sunlight Foundation, Washington Coalition for Open Government

SIGN ON: Please follow the link to sign on.

Thanks,

Daniel 


Daniel Schuman
Demand Progress & Demand Progress Action | Policy Director

December XX, 2017


Dear Representatives/ Senators:


We, the undersigned organizations, endorse the bipartisan Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA), common-sense legislation that improves Congress’s ability to oversee the Executive branch and provide needed governmental transparency.


ACMRA solves a significant problem: it establishes a central repository for agency reports submitted to Congress and tracks whether agencies have submitted the reports. Currently, congressional staff often are unaware of or have difficulty finding agency reports to Congress, especially when they are submitted to another committee or chamber. Reports often are lost or duplicated. In addition, while the reports could be made available to the public, they can be hard to find online and the FOIA request process is slow and costly.


ACMRA requires that any agency report that must be submitted to Congress and is releasable under the Freedom of Information Act will be published on a central website managed by the Government Publishing Office. The public-facing reports will become publicly available within 30 days of submission to Congress, and are subject to redaction under the FOIA rules should they contain classified or otherwise confidential material.


In addition, each year the Congressional Research Service, in consultation with the House and Senate, will create a list of all reports due to Congress, and GPO will compare the list of reports received from the agencies against the list compiled by CRS. This will tell us whether an agency has complied with its responsibilities and whether it have done so in a timely fashion.


The reports will be downloadable in bulk and submitted wherever possible in open data formats, which will allow the public and others to make full use of the information they contain, including building new services to increase their utility.


The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act will help Congress work more effectively and efficiently as well as strengthen public understanding of governmental operations. We strongly endorse the legislation.


Sincerely yours,



beacon
ACMRA One Pager.pdf
ACMRA Section by Section.pdf
HEN17B94 (1).pdf
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