Celebrating Sunshine Week with Webcasts, TGA, and More

By Elizabeth Holland

Sunshine Week officially kicks off Sunday, but we’ve already got much to celebrate.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced the Transparency in Government Act of 2014 (H.R. 4245). The bill includes a number of important transparency provisions that would bring improved public access and openness to the work of all three branches of government.  Highlights include:

  • Requiring all congressional committees to post public hearings and markup schedules, related bill language, witness testimony, and audio and video recordings online.
  • Making Members’ recorded votes more accessible by requiring the Clerk of the House to publish vote records online in an easily searchable, structured data format, and for Members to include their individual vote record on congressional websites.
  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office to audit the current budget, costs associated with and effectiveness of PACER and make recommendations to Congress, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and other appropriate offices on improvements
  • Increasing public access to Supreme Court proceedings by requiring by law the audio recording of oral arguments and live-streaming of the recordings on the Supreme Court’s website.
  • Making Congressional Research Service reports available to the public.
  • Strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by requiring agencies to put all completed FOIA requests online in a format that is searchable, sortable and downloadable. Also ensures that all agencies utilize the website FOIA Online to log, track and publish the status of requests.
  • Improving access to White House and agency visitor logs.

Though the bill likely won’t progress as a complete package, we’re thankful to Congressman Quigley for starting off Sunshine Week with such a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to government transparency.

This morning, we’re joining OpentheGovernment.org (OTG) and the Newseum’s First Amendment Center for their National Freedom of Information Day Conference and co-sponsoring the annual webcast so you can join too. This year’s event will feature several panels, including one which promises to bring together reporters and policy-makers to “talk about the 1971 break-in to the Media, PA FBI Field Office and the current leaks of information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the effects on society in these cases, and resulting reforms in intelligence policy and practice.”  Tune in between 8:30 am and 2:00 pm EST.

When Sunshine Week kicks off in earnest next week, you can expect lots of events and news from open government organizations in Washington and beyond. Here are some highlights: On Monday March 17, the Department of Justice will host its annual program to describe the current state of FOIA administration and mark the fifth anniversary of the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. On Tuesday, March 18, the Collaboration on Government Secrecy (CGS) will sponsor its Seventh Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration. View a PDF of the agenda, and find more details on the CGS website. On Wednesday March 19, the House Advisory Committee on Transparency will discuss “The Future of FOIA.” The committee educates policymakers on transparency-related issues, problems, and solutions and shares ideas with members of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. Several of these events will be recorded and posted online, and we’ll let you know when they’re available.

Happy Sunshine Week!

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