Policy and News Updates for February 24, 2009


In This Issue: [click on the link to go to the corresponding section]

News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Voting Open on "Show Us The Data"

II. Administration, Congress Prepare to Address "State Secrets"

III. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, Urge Congress to Put Spending Bills Online before Voting

News from Coalition Partners & Others

American Library Association: Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research at Risk

The American Library Association (ALA) has issued an alert urging the public to lobby against H.R. 801, the "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act," a bill that would negate or reverse the NIH Public Access Policy currently in place, rolling back hard-fought progress on public access to taxpayer-funded NIH research on the Internet. The bill would also prevent other federal agencies making their taxpayer-funded research available to the public with the same type of policy. Learn more about the bill, and find out how to let your Representatives know your opinion here.

 

Indiana Coalition for Open Government Honored

The Indiana Coalition for Open Government (ICOG) has been honored with the Frank O’Bannon Sunshine Award for its ongoing work to promote public access to government. The award, named for the former governor, was given to ICOG by the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA), which represents nearly all daily and weekly paid circulation newspapers in the state.

 

OMB Watch Publishes "The Bush Legacy"

OMB Watch has released The Bush Legacy: An Assault on Public Protections. The report, crafted by freelance writer and author Osha Gray Davidson, uses clear examples of attacks on common-sense regulations to help readers understand the toll of anti-regulatory actions, much of which occurred behind the scenes, on the United States.

 

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Releases "Federal Open Government Guide"

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) announces the release of the 10th edition of its guide to federal open government laws. The report, The Federal Open Government Guide provides resources to navigate the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including guidance on recent changes to the law, and addresses the federal open meetings law, the Privacy Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It also features sample letters to request records under the open records laws and suggestions on arguments to push for release of records.

 

Sunlight Foundation Introduces "Our Open Government List"

The Sunlight Foundation created Our Open Government List to add a public element to President Obama’s directive to officials in his Administration to make government more open and accountable. Sunlight encourages visitors to the page to submit ideas for what the directive should address, and to vote for their favorite submissions.

I. Voting Open on "Show Us The Data"

 

You have until March 9 to visit Show Us the Data and enter your requests for government information you think should be freely available on line in a usable format, but is not. Once voting is closed, OpenTheGovernment.org and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) will issue a report on the "Most Wanted" documents. This is the third Most Wanted survey, and previous projects were highly successful both in bringing attention to the issue, as well as encouraging federal entities to put information online. Make sure your most wanted documents make the list by voting and by sharing the site with your friends.

II. Administration, Congress Prepare to Address "State Secrets"

 

On February 11th bills to constrain the use of the state secrets privilege and provide guidance to the Federal courts in handling assertions of the state secret privilege in civil cases were re-introduced in the House, H.R. 984 and the Senate, S. 417. These bills follow on the heels of Attorney General Holder’s order to review all government claims invoking the State Secrets privilege. As cited in our 2008 Secrecy Report Card, the Bush Administration invoked the state secrets privilege, "45 times – an average of 6.4 times per year in 7 years (through 2007) and more than double the average (2.46) in the previous 24 years. Notably, however, the Obama Administration noticed its intent to use the same "state secrets" privilege claimed by the Bush Administration to stop a case involving "extraordinary rendition" from moving forward (Mohamed v. Jeppesen).

 

III. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, Urge Congress to Put Spending Bills Online before Voting

 

This afternoon OpenTheGovernment.org sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee urging them to place all upcoming spending bills online, in a usable, searchable, format. The letter, signed by more than 20 good government organizations and advocates, including several coalition partners, notes the public can be confident Members of Congress are being good stewards of government programs and taxpayer funds only if spending bills are passed in as transparent a way as possible and posting the all spending bills online at least 72 hours before it is brought up for consideration would help create that transparency.

 

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