Policy and News Updates for June 12, 2007

Policy Updates

In This Issue:


I. Secret Senator revealed, OPEN Gov’t bill stalled
II. Bill to improve access to Congressional research
III. Markups

I. Secret Senator revealed, OPEN Gov’t bill stalled
In the May 30 edition of the Policy and News Updates, we explained that the OPEN Government Act (S. 849) sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-VT] and Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX] is waiting to reach the Senate floor. Since we last reported, pressure from citizen activists and others led to the outing of Senator John Kyl [R-AZ] as the Senator who had a placed a secret hold on the bill. However, the bill still has not been scheduled for the Senate floor. You can help by contacting Senate leadership.

TAKE ACTION: Call or write to Senator Reid [D-NV] and Senator McConnell [R-KY] and ask that they bring the OPEN Government Act to the floor for a vote!

II. Bill to improve access to Congressional research
Last month, Rep. Christopher Shays [R-CT] introduced a bill to make certain Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports publicly available online. Rep. Shays introduced the bill, "Congressional Research Accessibility Act" (HR 2545) with Reps. Jay Inslee [D-WA] and David Price [D-NC]. The bill would make available: (A) Congressional Research Service Issue Briefs; (B) Congressional Research Service Reports that are available to Members of Congress through the Congressional Research Service website and (C) Congressional Research Service Authorization of Appropriations Products and Appropriations Products.

As reported in the April 3rd edition of the Policy and News Updates, American taxpayers spend nearly $100 million a year to fund the CRS, an arm of the Library of Congress whose 700 researchers provide reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. However, these reports are not publicly available and must either be requested directly through a member of Congress or otherwise made available by an organization (like OpenCRS.com and the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy) or commercial vendors.

The bill, though a positive step forward, is not perfect. For example, the bill would prohibit public access to CRS reports until 30 days after they are first published on the internal congressional web site. Steven Aftergood explains in Secrecy News, "This is good news for commercial vendors of CRS products, who have (unauthorized) near-real time access to CRS publications and could continue to exploit that advantage for financial gain. But the delay would significantly diminish the utility of many such publications for the general public."

TAKE ACTION: Help add to the Open CRS collection! Call your member of Congress and request a PDF copy of the following CRS Report. Once you receive it, submit it to Open CRS.
Order Code: RS22521
Title: Peru Trade Promotion Agreement: Labor Issues

III. Markups
Several open government bills are headed for markup up on Thursday, June 14 by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. There will be a full committee markup of the "Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act" (S.274); the "Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2007" H.R.1254; S.Res.22, reaffirming the constitutional and statutory protections accorded sealed domestic mail; and the "Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007" (H.R.1255 and S.886)

News from Coalition Partners and Others


POGO briefing materials
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) runs a briefing series for Congressional staff to learn how to conduct effective oversight and investigations. Their latest briefing was titled "Access to Classified and Other Restricted Information: Congressional Rights." Although these sessions are limited to Congressional staffers, POGO offers resources and materials to the public.

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