OPEN Government Data Act

On January 14, 2019, the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act was signed into law. The OPEN Government Data Act was included in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Public Law 115-435) as Title II. The open data proposal will require federal agencies to publish their information online, using machine-readable data formats.

House Speaker Paul Ryan on the House Floor delivering remarks on the passage of Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEBP) (H.R. 4174).

Government information should be published as machine-readable data – not documents.

The Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act provides a sweeping, government-wide mandate for federal agencies to publish all their information as open data – using standardized, non-proprietary formats. The OPEN Government Data Act builds on President Obama’s May 2013 Open Data Policy (M13-13). It makes the key aspects of the Open Data Policy permanent.

On November 15th, 2017 for the first time, the OPEN Government Data Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The House unanimously approved the bill under suspension of the rules. The OPEN Government Data Act is included as Title II in Speaker Paul Ryan’s Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking (FEBP) Act (H.R. 4174).

Earlier in the 115th Congress, a slightly modified bill was reintroduced in both the House (H.R. 1770) and Senate (S. 760) on March 29, 2017, with identical text. On May 17th, 2017 the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill for consideration on the Senate floor. On September 28, 2017, the Senate passed a revised version of the OPEN Government Data Act as an amendment to Sen. John McCain’s (AZ-R) Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 2810). The measure was ultimately removed from the defense package in the joint conferencing committee process. The Data Coalition and numerous policy partners worked to convince the Senate to again take renewed action on the House passed a version of the OPEN Government Data Act in the Speaker’s FEBP package (H.R. 4174). On December 19, 2018, the Senate passed H.R. 4174 by unanimous consent, and on December 21, 2018, the House voted on a motion to suspend the rules and passed the Senate amended version of H.R. 4147 by a voice vote of 356 to 17. On January 14, 2019, President Trump signed the FEBP Act (Public Law 115-435), which contained the OPEN Government Data Act, into law. 

The OPEN Government Data Act sets an official presumption that “Government data assets made available by an agency shall be published as machine-readable data…in an open format, and…under open licenses.”

It would make a federal agency’s failure to utilize open data legally questionable. The legislation will provide a powerful tool for open data reforms in every area of the government’s information portfolio.

The OPEN Government Data Act also requires agencies to maintain, and publish, a comprehensive data inventory of all data assets. The data inventory will help agencies and open data advocates identify key government information resources and transform them from documents and siloed databases into open data.

The OPEN Government Data Act’s lead supporters were former Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1-R), Sen. Patty Murray (WA-D), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6-D).

About the Bill

The OPEN Government Data Act seeks to:

  • Define open data without locking in yesterday’s technology.
  • Create minimal standards for making federal government data available to the public.
  • Require the federal government to use open data to improve decision making.
  • Ensure accountability by requiring regular oversight.
  • Establish and formalize Chief Data Officers (CDO) at federal agencies with data governance and implementation responsibilities.

OPEN Government Data Act Resources

115th Congress

  • Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act and OPEN Government Data Act filed as Public Law 115-435.
  • Official White House announcement that H.R. 4174, which contains the OPEN Government Data Act, was signed into law.
  • Data Coalition press release on the signing of H.R. 4174 into law.
  • Bill text as of December 20, 2018.
  • Section-by-section summary published, December 2018.
  • Video of Senate passage, December 19, 2018.
  • Data Coalition November 15, 2017 press release announcing the House of Representatives passage of the OPEN Government Data Act – Video of floor remarks by the House Speaker Paul Ryan.
  • November 2, 2017 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passage of the OPEN Government Data Act – Committee report (H. Rept. 115-411) and hearing video archive
  • Data Coalition November 2, 2017 press release announcing that House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1-R) and Senator Patty Murray (WA-D) reintroduced the OPEN Government Data Act as Title II in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEBP) (H.R. 4174; S. 2046)
  • Data Coalition September 28, 2017 press release announcing Senate passage of the OPEN Government Data Act as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810, see Section 6012. Open Government Data)
  • July 24, 2017 the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee clears S. 760 – Committee report (S. Rept. 115-134)
  • Identical text of he OPEN Government Data Act reintroduced in the 115th Congress: Senate version S.760 and House version H.R. 1770
  • Section-by-section summary published by Rep. Kilmer’s office
  • 2017 House Dear Colleague sent by lead sponsors of HR 1770
  • Supporting Industry letter with eighty-six signatories (organized by the Center for Data Innovation), April 5 2017
  • Data Coalition’s supporting testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing on Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency, March 23 2017 – Hudson Hollister’s written testimony, Committee’s hearing webpage, and video archive
  • Data Coalition blog posts about the OPEN Government Data Act

114th Congress

  • Data Coalition December 10, 2016 press release announcing the Senate of the 114th Congress had unanimously passed the OPEN Government Data Act (S.2852), December 10th, 2016
  • 2016 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost score on S. 2852 (Senate passed a version, 114th Congress) stating no significant impact on federal spending by the bill
  • Supporting Industry letter with forty-eight signatories (organized by the Center for Data Innovation), May 6, 2016
  • Video of OPEN Government Data Act introduction event co-hosted by the Center for Data Innovation and Data Coalition, April 14, 2016