What should be included in a GPO (Title 44) Reform Bill

The Committee on House Administration is working on legislation to reauthorize and reform the Government Publishing Office, holding four hearing on “Transforming the GPO for the 21st Century” over the past year. (1, 2, 3, 4). It would not be surprising if a reform bill were to be introduced soon.

The Congressional Data Coalition has not been part of the review process, although some of our members may have been engaged.

I want to share my personal suggestions for items to be included in reform legislation, although I do not claim to speak for anyone else and I have not read any draft legislation.

Title 44 Reform Suggestions

Create an advisory group (composed of people inside and outside Congress), modeled after the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress, that is focused on modernizing public access to legislative branch information. It would be managed by the Clerk and Secretary of the Senate, housed at GPO, and include from each chamber, relevant support offices and agencies, and representatives of the general public. It also would have a particular role in providing advice as to what Congress.gov should look like in the future, fdsys/govinfo, and docs.house.gov. It also would be charged with identifying structured data published by the legislative branch and civil society, and would be able to work with committees and offices to improve their release practices. It should meet at least 4 times a year and have the ability to create subgroups.

Require all federal court opinions that are published to be available through GPO. (Opinions are already available on PACER, but the pay wall impedes public access).

Modernize the Constitution Annotated, so that it is available to the public as a constantly updated website (just like the internal congressional website). The current publication method — an app that displays the PDF — is not sufficient. If possible, the underlying XML behind CONAN should be published as well.

There should be a legislative-branch wide Innovation Lab that is managed by GPO. They should be able to build tools and services for the legislative branch. This could dovetail with the Congressional Digital Service concept.

GPO should be able to receive gifts (just like the LC)

GPO should be authorized to work with agencies to encourage them to publish their records online in appropriate forms, and then for GPO to collect those documents. Documents sets could include the IG reports on oversight.gov, CRS reports, congressionally mandated reports, etc. GPO should be able to proactively do this work.

Through an effort modeled after section 6 of the Public Online Information Act, a multi-branch advisory committee on open data standards should be formed to coordinate the Gov’ts efforts to make government info from all 3 branches of Government available on the internet; and (issue nonbinding guidelines on how that should be done. See https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/3484/text#toc-HE5B4FB2987824C6DBDDD2FE784417CCB

Open data requirement: As a general rule the government should be required to publish documents it releases online, and whenever they are published online they should be in a structured data format, etc., in accordance with the 10 open data principles

GPO should be able to lease space to NGOs and civil society organizations that work on public access to information as a way of creating a cluster of tech expertise.

A single person at GPO should be designated its transparency ombudsman as a point of contact for the government and the public to find information about government information, make recommendations to agencies about their best practices, and evangelize around opening up public information.