Washington eBulletin – February 2019

A Look Ahead

New Congress Considers Transparency Legislation

While Congress spent much of January focused on reopening the federal government from the longest shutdown in history, the House of Representatives and Senate continued to attend to the daily business of legislating–including holding hearings and passing bills.

On January 17, AALL celebrated passage of the bipartisan Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency (GREAT) Act (H.R. 150) in the House. The GREAT Act would modernize federal grant reporting and increase transparency for grant-making agencies and the public. It awaits action in the Senate. AALL also applauded the reintroduction of the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (S. 195, H.R. 736) to improve access to reports mandated by Congress through the establishment of a searchable central website managed by the Government Publishing Office. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation was introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) on January 19 and January 23, respectively.

These legislative actions come on the heels of the enactment of the OPEN Government Data Act, which was signed by President Trump on January 14 as part of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (P.L. 115-435). The new law promotes greater distribution of and public access to federal government data by defining data, machine-reliability, and open license in government; creating standards for making federal government data available to the public; and requiring the federal government to use open data to improve decision-making.

While the second round of negotiations to fund the government for the current fiscal year will undoubtedly dominate the headlines in the coming weeks, AALL expects the introduction of additional legislation supporting a more open and transparent government. Specifically, we anticipate the reintroduction of the Electronic Court Records Reform Act that would improve the federal courts’ electronic records system and require that all federal court documents be searchable, machine-readable, and available free of charge through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.

Act Now

AALL Day on the Hill / Registration Now Open

Join AALL on Capitol Hill to influence information policy issues and harness our collective voice for the profession. You’ll learn about the information policy issues on AALL’s agenda and how to successfully advocate for law libraries and then take our message to Capitol Hill for meetings with your members of Congress and their staff. This year marks 30 years of professional advocacy for AALL; help us celebrate our anniversary by demonstrating the strength and expertise of the Association and our members.

DETAILS

  • Friday, July 12 / 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT
  • Marriott Marquis / Washington, DC
  • Register by Friday, May 17
  • Open to AALL members only – Free
  • 80-person limit

Roundup and Review

  • AALL issued an eBriefing on the impact of the partial federal government shutdown.
  • AALL joined the American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations on an amicus brief supporting the idea that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to judicial records through PACER. The brief was filed in response to National Veterans Legal Services Program et al v. United States of America.
  • We submitted comments to the Copyright Office on modernizing the Office’s registration system.