Congress Advances Bipartisan Open Data and Transparency Bills

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Congress Advances Bipartisan Open Data and Transparency Bills

Washington, D.C.  – Congress has advanced multiple bills that promote transparency about government activities and increase the use, availability, and accessibility of open data, including the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act (S. 272), which got final approval yesterday and now heads to the President’s desk for signature. These bills represent priorities of the transparency, data, and evidence communities, and will help ensure better information is publicly available to enable effective, informed policy decisions. 

Transparency Bills Improve American People’s Access to Information about Their Government

The bipartisan Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act improves public access to agency documents produced each year that describe past spending and performance, as well as priorities and plans for the next year’s budget. While agencies are expected to share this information publicly, there is no common access point for policymakers, congressional staff, issue advocates, or the American people to view details about the Executive Branch’s spending priorities. This bill establishes a common repository for budget details and will also require agencies to publish their annual budget justifications as structured data, supporting efforts to analyze and compare budget information across agencies and years. 

“The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act is a major step forward for the federal government in being transparent about how taxpayer dollars are spent and the effectiveness of government programs,” said Nick Hart, Data Foundation president, on behalf of the members of the Data Coalition Initiative. “Government agencies have a responsibility to clearly communicate priorities and spending information to the public and this Act shifts the responsibility in finding that information from the American people to the government.” 

The House previously  advanced the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 2485), in July. This bill creates would which creates a portal for publishing reports submitted to Congress as open, publicly-available information. While many of these reports are disclosable under existing public records laws, the burden is on the American public or stakeholders to request the report unless an agency chooses to make it available at the time of submission to Congress. This bill would shift the default expectation so that reports are open and available when practicable, a substantial improvement for government transparency and accountability. 

While the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act heads to President Biden for signature, the other three bills will be sent to the Senate for consideration. The Data Coalition Initiative urges the Senate to rapidly advance the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Acts,  continuing bipartisan efforts to improve government data and access to information for the American people. 

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About the Data Coalition Initiative: The Data Coalition is an initiative of the non-profit Data Foundation. The membership-based initiative facilitates a strong national data community and advocates for responsible policies to make government data high-quality, accessible, and usable. The Data Coalition’s work unites the data communities that focus on data science, management, evaluation, statistics, and technology, including individuals in companies, nonprofit organizations, and academia.