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RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
[House Prints, 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


 







                                [COMMITTEE PRINT] 
                                
116th Congress      }                                         {      C.P. 116-1
                              HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session        }                                         {
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                           RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE 
                              TRANSPARENCY IN THE 
                           U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 
                           
                           
                                    _________
 			                             
                            
                                   R E P O R T 
                                   
                                    _________
                                  
                                   
                                  
                          THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE 
                           MODERNIZATION OF CONGRESS 
                         U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 
                         
                                    _________
                          
                         
  
  
  
  
  
  
                [GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
 			                       
  
  
  
  
  
  
                       MAY 23, 2019.--Ordered to be printed  





                                   ______
		 
                     U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE 
		 
36-771                    WASHINGTON : 2019                 



















                    SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE MODERNIZATION OF CONGRESS 
                    
                             DEREK KILMER, Washington, Chair 
                             
ZOE LOFGREN, California                  TOM GRAVES, Georgia, Vice Chair 
EMMANUEL CLEAVER, Missouri               ROBERT WOODALL, Georgia 
SUZAN DELBENE, Washington                SUSAN W. BROOKS, Indiana 
MARK POCAN, Wisconsin                    RODNEY DAVIS, Illinois 
MARY GAY SCANLON, Pennsylvania           DAN NEWHOUSE, Washington 
                                         WILLIAM TIMMONS, South Carolina 
                               _________

             
                            COMMITTEE STAFF 

                         ALLIE NEILL, Staff Director 
                         JAKE OLSON, Deputy Staff Director 




























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                                      C O N T E N T S  
                                      
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                                        MAY 23, 2019 

                                                                  page 
                                                                  
I. PURPOSE AND SUMMARY                                               1 
II. BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS                          1 
III. HEARINGS                                                        2  
IV. RECOMMENDATIONS                                                  3 
V. COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION AND VOTES                                 4 


































                                   (III)   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   
                                   






                                 
116th Congress      }                                         {     C.P. 116-1
                              HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session        }                                         {
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                        RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY IN 
                              THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 

                                  ____________________

May 23, 2019.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of 
                               the Union and ordered to be printed 


                                 ____________________

Mr. Kilmer, from the Select Committee on the Modernization of 
                     Congress, submitted the following 



                                 R E P O R T 

                           I. PURPOSE AND SUMMARY 
                           
                           
  The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has been charged with the 
 important responsibility of recommending improvements to the U.S. House of 
 Representatives to ultimately better serve the American people. These initial 
 recommendations propose to improve transparency and ease public access to 
 legislative information in the U.S. House of Representatives. While legislative 
 information is public, it is often not made available in a format that allows the 
 public to easily review and understand this information. These recommendations 
 address such transparency and access problems and encourage the continuous 
 coordination and public posting of new legislative information. 


 II. BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS 

 Over the past decade, there has been a significant push to make congressional 
 data more accessible to the American public in an interactive and understandable 
 way. Transparency increases accountability and ultimately improves the way Congress 
 serves the people. 
  The Select Committee identified the following issues to be addressed with 
recommendations to improve transparency: 

   1. The House currently uses four different formats to write and view legislation, 
   which creates inefficiencies in the process. Maintaining, converting, and 
   reconverting between multiple formats requires costly custom software, risks 
   errors, and hinders transparency. Adopting U.S. Legislative Markup (USLM)--one of 
   the four formats currently used and the recognized standard--throughout the 
   lawmaking process creates a more coherent system for members and staff; simplifies 
   drafting; allows for instant comparison of proposed bills to current law; provides 
   transparency; and, allows for changes made by amendments to be automatically 
   reflected in bills once they are approved. 
   2.  In 2017, new rules adopted by the House encouraged greater transparency and 
   access to legislative documents. These rules called for additional tools for 
   members, staff, and the public to clearly see how proposed legislation could 
   change our laws throughout the legislative process. This initiative, known as 
   the Posey Comparative Prints Project, has already completed Phase 1, and is on 
   track to meet their Phase 2 and Phase 3 deadlines. However, the Select Committee 
   has identified possible areas of concern including making sure that (1) resources 
   are available to develop and maintain the application for House-wide use, and (2) 
   resources are available to train and support staff using the comparative print 
   application. Ensuring that the Clerk's Office is ready to handle these anticipated 
   challenges is key to a smooth transition to implementing the comparative print
   program, and ensuring the public can easily view and understand proposed changes 
   to our laws. 
   3.  Filing and finding lobbyist disclosures should be straight-forward and simple. 
   A Congress-wide unique identifier for lobbyists would eliminate the problem of 
   misspelled names, or the same person having registrations under different first 
   names (example: Mike/Michael) causing confusion. By assigning unique identifiers, 
   the Clerk's Office would clarify and simplify the lobbying registration and 
   disclosure process, while making the filing process simpler. 
   4.  Over the last few decades, Congress has increasingly failed to regularly 
   update the authorization of federal agencies and programs. As a result, the 
   management of wide expanses of the federal government has shifted to the executive 
   branch, and many programs and departments operate on autopilot without meaningful 
   congressional input. Making agency and program reauthorization dates public provides 
   members, staff, and the public with easy-to-access information about the current 
   status of executive branch programs and the committees that are responsible for 
   authorizing those programs. 
   5.  Figuring out how members of a committee or its subcommittees voted on any bill 
   or issue before the committee or its subcommittees can be difficult. Each committee 
   sets its own procedures for making this information publicly available. The information 
   is public, yet it's not easy to access by most Americans. Some subscriber services 
   collect and provide this information to paying subscribers. But for the average 
   person--and even for members and staff not on the committee--this information is 
   difficult and time-consuming to collect. Publishing committee votes in a centralized 
   location improves transparency and access to this information for the public at-large. 

                                    III. HEARINGS 
                                    
  The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held a hearing titled, "Opening 
up the Process: Recommendations for Making Legislative Information More Transparent". on 
May 10, 2019. The Select Committee received testimony from: 
    *  Daniel Schuman, Policy Director, Demand Progress 
    *  Joshua Tauberer, Founder, GovTrack.us 
    *  Robert Reeves, Deputy House Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives 
    *  Frances Lee, Professor, University of Maryland 

                           IV. RECOMMENDATIONS 
                           
  The Select Committee made the following five recommendations to address the problems 
identified (see II. BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS). The Select Committee 
supports: 
      1. Adopting one standardized format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation 
      to improve transparency and efficiency throughout the lawmaking process. 
      Specifically . . . Develop a plan for the adoption of U.S. Legislative Markup (USLM) 
      throughout the lawmaking process. The plan would incorporate a timeline for use by the 
      House Legislative Counsel, members' offices, leadership, and committees. Such an 
      approach would help members, staff, and the American public have access to changes, 
      visualizations, and analysis of legislative text. Printing and publishing processes 
      would also be made more efficient. 
      2.  Providing resources to finish legislation comparison project on schedule and 
      train staff to vastly improve the American public's ability to understand how 
      amendments change legislation, and the impact of proposed legislation to current law. 
      Specifically . . . The Clerk's Office is on track to meet their Posey Comparative Print 
      Project Phase 2 (August 2019) and Phase 3 (3rd quarter 2020) deadlines. The main issues 
      of concern are making sure that (1) resources are available to develop and maintain the 
      application for House-wide use, and (2) resources are available to train and support 
      staff using the comparative print application. Support would include ensuring that the 
      Clerk's Office is ready to handle these anticipated challenges to implement the 
      comparative print program. 
      3. Modernizing the lobbying disclosure system to improve the filing process and more 
      easily find and track individual disclosures. 
      Specifically . . .  Direct the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate to update 
      the lobbying disclosure system in general and generate a Congress-wide unique identifier 
      for lobbyists and disclosing that identifier to the public as structured data as part of 
      the lobbying disclosure downloads. 
      4.  Developing a centralized, electronic HUB that would list all federal agency and 
      program reauthorization expiration dates, by committee. 
      Specifically . . . Congress has increasingly failed to regularly update the authorization 
      of federal agencies and programs. Centralizing agency and program reauthorization dates 
      provides members, staff, and the public with easy-to-access information about the current 
      status of executive branch programs and the committees that are responsible for 
      authorizing those programs. 
      5. Developing a centralized, electronic HUB of committee votes that would be accessible 
      via House.gov and in machine readable format. 
      Specifically . . . Figuring out how a committee or its subcommittees voted on any bill 
      or issue before the committee or its subcommittees can be prohibitively difficult. Each 
      committee sets its own procedures for making this information publicly available. The 
      information is public, yet it's not easy to access by most Americans. Centralizing 
      committee vote data in one place enhances transparency and ensures ease of access for 
      the public. 

                         V. COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION AND VOTES  

                                       CONSIDERATION 
                                       
  On May 23, 2019, the Select Committee held a Business Meeting, a quorum being present, and 
  reported favorably the recommendations herein contained in this report. 


                                            VOTES 
                                            
  In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, there 
 were no recorded votes taken on these recommendations. The recommendations herein contained 
 in this report were adopted by voice vote, two-thirds being in the affirmative. A motion by 
 Chair Derek Kilmer of Washington to report these recommendations to the House of Representatives 
 was adopted by voice vote, two-thirds being in the affirmative. 


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