ARCHIVED: Issue Brief: NGEGIAA of 1999

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THE NEXT GENERATION ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT
INFORMATION ACCESS ACT OF 1999

ACTION NEEDED:

Affirm your commitment to the principle that access to government information is the very cornerstone of our democratic society by sponsoring the library community's important legislative initiative to improve public access to government information in the 21st century, the Next Generation Electronic Government Information Access Act of 1999.

BACKGROUND: This draft legislation amends Chapter 41 of U.S.C. Title 44, the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-40), that established the award-winning GPO Access online system. The proposal builds on the success of GPO Access and updates the law to address obstacles to public access to electronic government information in the 21st century. The proposal grows out of the cooperative legislative efforts by the library community during the 105th Congress that were included in S. 2288, the omnibus Wendell H. Ford Government Publications Reform Act of 1998.

The Next Generation Electronic Government Information Access Act of 1999 is a focused and incremental approach that will close loopholes in current law and improve and enhance public access to electronic publications from all three branches of government. It provides solutions to two of the most urgent challenges of electronic government information,

  1. to broaden, strengthen, and enhance public access to electronic government information, including both tangible and online; and
  2. to provide permanent public access to and ensure authenticity of electronic government information.
Robert L. Oakley, Professor of Law and Library Director, E.B. Williams Law Library, Georgetown University Law Center, and AALL Washington Affairs Representative, appeared before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in July 1998 in support of S. 2288. Oakley testified then that Congress must take immediate steps to strengthen and preserve public access to electronic government information. In addition, he highlighted the government's important partnership with the American people in making government information equally accessible to all, noting that,
The federal government must fulfill its part of the partnership by establishing a framework that will remain vital and relevant in the 21st century, by investing in systems and services that provide the public with government publications in all formats, and by assuring that valuable government information created today will be preserved for future generations.
Key provisions of the Next Generation Electronic Government Information Access Act:
  • It explicitly expands the scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to include electronic publications from all three branches of government while recognizing the challenges and opportunities of electronic information technologies.
  • It requires the Superintendent of Documents to coordinate with Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, and the National Archives and Records Administration to develop and establish uniform standards for the dissemination of electronic government information products, including standards for ensuring authenticity.
  • It establishes a council to advise the Superintendent on products to be included in the Program, appropriate format(s), and other policy matters.
  • It requires the Superintendent of Documents to maintain and make available an electronic directory or locator to identify, describe and dynamically link users to web-based government information products and to operate an electronic storage facility to which online access is made available to the public.
  • It addresses the loss of electronic government information by establishing in law the affirmative responsibility of the federal government to provide current, continuous, and future public access to electronic publications at no fee to the public.
  • It requires publishing agencies to notify the Superintendent of their intent to produce, procure, substantially modify, or terminate an electronic government publication so that the Superintendent may include the publication in directory and locator services.
  • It allows the Superintendent to request the electronic source files of government publications from agencies so that the Superintendent may produce the publication in an appropriate format for the program, and to enable the Superintendent to provide permanent public access to electronic publications.
  • It prevents any agency from delegating or contracting for the creation, storage, reproduction, or dissemination of a government publication, or from offering electronic products for sale or through a fee-based service, without providing in advance for the full content of that information to be made available to the Superintendent for inclusion in the program.
  • It places oversight responsibilities for agency compliance within each branch of government to ensure the timely dissemination of electronic government information to the public by the Congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.
  • It requires the Superintendent to establish a committee to make recommendations within two years on the components of a distributive system for permanent public access to electronic government publications.
  • It makes agencies responsible for maintaining permanent public access to their electronic information products until a comprehensive government wide system of continuous and permanent public access is in place.
AALL Contact:
Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
202.662.9200
baish@law.georgetown.edu