Bill Requiring All Reports to Congress Be Published in Online Repository Introduced

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, thanks to the tremendous leadership of Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Sens. Ron Portman (R-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The bipartisan bill (read it here) requires:

  • all reports to Congress that are required by law to be published online in a central repository, and
  • Congress to keep a list of all of its reporting requirements and check whether agencies have submitted reports on time.

ACMRA is important because it improves the legislative ecosystem for high quality information. In short, it empowers Congressional staff to do their jobs and the public to hold the government accountable.

38 organizations from across the political spectrum endorsed the legislation.

ACMRA solves a significant problem: it establishes a central repository for agency reports submitted to Congress and tracks whether agencies have submitted the reports. Currently, congressional staff often are unaware of or have difficulty finding agency reports to Congress, especially when they are submitted to another committee or chamber. Reports often are lost or duplicated. In addition, while the reports could be made available to the public, they can be hard to find online and the FOIA request process is slow and costly.

ACMRA requires that any agency report that must be submitted to Congress and is releasable under the Freedom of Information Act will be published on a central website managed by the Government Publishing Office. The public-facing reports will become publicly available within 30 days of submission to Congress, and are subject to redaction under the FOIA rules should they contain classified or otherwise confidential material.

In addition, each year the Congressional Research Service, in consultation with the House and Senate, will create a list of all reports due to Congress, and GPO will compare the list of reports received from the agencies against the list compiled by CRS. This will tell us whether an agency has complied with its responsibilities and whether it have done so in a timely fashion.

The reports will be downloadable in bulk and submitted wherever possible in open data formats, which will allow the public and others to make full use of the information they contain, including building new services to increase their utility.

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act will help Congress work more effectively and efficiently as well as strengthen public understanding of governmental operations. We strongly endorse the legislation.

• • •

ACMRA has a complex history for a simple bill. It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress by Rep. Steve Dreihaus, but did not advance for partisan reasons. After Rep. Dreihaus was defeated, Rep. Mike Quigley took up the mantle and has reintroduced it in every subsequent Congress, always with bipartisan support. It got hung up in the 112th Congress with a snag from the Intelligence Committee, which was resolved but not in time for floor consideration. It was favorably reported by the two committees of jurisdiction in the 113th and 114th Congress, with co-sponsorship by the Chair and Ranking Members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the Senate, it was introduced in the 112th Congress, only to die an ignominious death with the Senate Rules Committee declined to hold a markup of any legislation the entire session. It was poised for introduction in the 113th, but an agreement couldn’t be reached for a markup with the Senate Rules committee, and in the 114th member and staff turnover prevented introduction.

All throughout, it was scored by CBO as either have little or no cost, with the most recent cost estimate being $600k for the first year and $200k thereafter.

This is a common-sense transparency bill that has broad bipartisan support and a minimal price tag. We are looking forward to its consideration by the House and Senate.

— Written by Daniel Schuman