Policy and News Updates for November 27, 2007

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

I. Presidential Records bill stalled, groups urge action
II. Secrecy provision in the Transportation Approps bill dropped

I. Presidential Records bill stalled, groups urge action

On November 19, forty groups, including OpenTheGovernment.org, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] urging him to bring the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 bill [S. 886] to the floor. As reported in the October 16 edition of the Updates, Sen. Jim Bunning [R-KY] has a hold on the bill, but has refused to state his reasons for the hold.

The legislation would nullify the Bush executive order [E.O. 13233], which gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. The bill would also establish procedures for the timely release of records. On March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the companion bill, H.R. 1255. Read background in the October 16 edition of the Updates and learn more from the National Coalition for History.

II. Secrecy provision in Transportation Approps bill dropped

On November 15, twelve organizations, including OpenTheGovernment.org, sent a letter to members of the Senate urging them to oppose a secrecy provision added to the Conference Report on the FY 2008 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. The provision, cited as Section 193 in the bill, would have severely limited the ability of congressional authorizing and budget committees to provide proper oversight in the federal budgeting process. According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the provision would have prohibited the public and members of Congress who are not on the Transportation-HUD appropriations committees from viewing agency budget justifications prior to May 31 of each year.

Later the same day, Sen. Tom Coburn [R-OK] released a statement that he and Rep. John Olver [D-MA], chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee for the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development departments, came to an agreement to drop the provision in a victory for open government. Learn more from POGO.

News from Coalition Partners and Others

The state of state disclosure
State governments are improving their
transparency practices, but many are still not taking full advantage of the Internet to
inform the public. Online disclosure of corporate tax breaks and other economic
development subsidies lags far behind reporting on procurement contracts and lobbying
activities. These are the main findings of a report entitled The State of State Disclosure
released by The Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.

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