Tag: government transparency

Sunlight Before Signing: Measuring a Campaign Promise

And when there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as president, you, the public, will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing.

When candidate Obama spoke that line on the campaign trail (starting around 1:00 in the video), it was met with a hail of applause. This same promise was featured on his campaign web site. He laid out a vision for a transparent, responsive government.

The interesting thing about this particular promise—what made it a rarity in campaigns—was that it was measurable. We could learn by watching whether President Obama would deliver on this promise.

So I did.

Over the last three-and-a-half years, I’ve taken note of when Congress has presented bills to the president, when they’ve been posted (accessibly) on Whitehouse.gov, and when the president has signed them.

This is my thirty-seventh post on the topic. Each character in that last sentence is a link to a previous post. Read through to see the full saga of Sunlight Before Signing implementation.

But enough chatter. How has the president done on a simple, straightforward campaign promise that would make the government more open and transparent?

The current tally is…(drumroll please)…

just under two-thirds compliance!

As the summary table below illustrates, the Obama White House almost completely disregarded the Sunlight Before Signing promise in the first year. In fact, it was the president’s first broken promise. Since then, the president has improved, but not by so much that people have come to rely on Sunlight Before Signing to “know what [their] government’s doing.”

  Number of Bills Emergency Bills Bills Posted Five Days %
2009 124 0 6 4.8%
2010 258 1 186 72.4%
2011 81 0 55 67.9%
2012 92 0 75 81.5%
Overall 555 1 368 66.3%

Here’s part of why they don’t rely on it: We learned through study that the important bills tend notto get five days of public review before the president signs them. The ones that almost always do are the bills to rename post offices, change the borders of national parks, and such.

When the president promised Sunlight Before Signing, it was possible the strict adherence to his pledge from the first days of his presidency would have encouraged people to use the process as a tool for government oversight. I disagree with the point that bills sent to the president are faits accomplis. Sunlight Before Signing would have changed the “upstream” behavior of legislators who would not want to be caught out inserting the earmark or parochial amendment that takes down a bill.

Now the question stands: Will President Obama continue to implement Sunlight Before Signing in a second term? If so, will he apply the rule to all bills so that people can rely on having five days to review the legislation Congress sends him?

A legitimate alternative for President Obama is to swear off that campaign promise as improvidently made. Arguably, it was. Since then, we have learned through study (my study, in particular) that transparency is a set of practices making data reliably available and machine-discoverable and -readable.

If President Obama wants to do something for transparency, he could do something as simple as publish a federal government organization chart in machine-readable format so that legislation, oversight, and spending data could be linked to the unique identifiers for agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects, as well as authorizations, obligations, and outlays.

The Office of Management and Budget is becoming conspicuous for its foot-dragging in this area, and even its opposition to steps that would improve government transparency. If President Obama wants to be a transparency president, he could perfectly well shed Sunlight Before Signing and pledge in this campaign to make at least the organizational data OMB holds in the MAX database available to the public.

Needless to say, the Romney campaign can highlight President Obama’s inability to deliver on his soaring transparency promises by pledging to take the concrete steps noted above. I’d report just as doggedly on his compliance with such a promise.

While we wait, here are all the bills passed so far in the 112th Congress and their treatment under President Obama’s Sunlight Before Signing promise.

Public Law Date Presented Date Signed Posted [(Linked)]? Posted Five Days?
P.L. 112-1, To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes 1/28/2011 1/31/2011 [1/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-2, A bill to designate the United States courthouse under construction at 98 West First Street, Yuma, Arizona, as the “John M. Roll United States Courthouse” 2/11/2011 2/17/2011 [2/11/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-3, The FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 2/23/2011 2/25/2011 [2/23/2011 No
P.L. 112-4, The Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011 3/2/2011 3/2/2011 [3/2/2011] No
P.L. 112-5, The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 3/3/2011 3/4/2011 No No
P.L. 112-6, The Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011 3/17/2011 3/18/2011 No No
P.L. 112-7, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011 3/30/2011 3/31/2011 3/30/2011 No
P.L. 112-8, The Department of Defense and Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 4/9/2011 4/9/2011 No No
P.L. 112-9, The Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 4/6/2011 4/14/2011 [4/7/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-10, The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 4/15/2011 4/15/2011 [4/14/2011] No
P.L. 112-11, A bill to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 217 West King Street, Martinsburg, West Virginia, as the “W. Craig Broadwater Federal Building and United States Courthouse” 4/14/2011 4/25/2011 [4/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-12, A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Stephen M. Case as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 4/14/2011 4/25/2011 [4/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-13, To amend the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act to extend the termination date for the Commission, and for other purposes 5/2/2011 5/12/2011 [5/2/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-14, The PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 5/26/2011 5/26/2011 No No
P.L. 112-15, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 12781 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Inverness, California, as the “Specialist Jake Robert Velloza Post Office” 5/26/2011 5/31/2011 [5/26/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-16, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part II 5/26/2011 5/31/2011 [5/26/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-17, The Small Business Additional Temporary Extension Act of 2011 6/1/2011 6/1/2011 [6/1/2011] No
P.L. 112-18, The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 6/1/2011 6/8/2011 [6/1/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-19, A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Shirley Ann Jackson as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 6/21/2011 6/24/2011 [6/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-20, A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Robert P. Kogod as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 6/21/2011 6/24/2011 [6/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-21, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part III 6/28/2011 6/29/2011 [6/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-22, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4865 Tallmadge Road in Rootstown, Ohio, as the “Marine Sgt. Jeremy E. Murray Post 6/23/2011 6/29/2011 [6/23/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-23, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 95 Dogwood Street in Cary, Mississippi, as the “Spencer Byrd Powers, Jr. Post Office” 6/23/2011 6/29/2011 [6/23/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-24, A bill to extend the term of the incumbent Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/26/2011 7/26/2011 [7/26/2011] No
P.L. 112-25, The Budget Control Act of 2011 8/2/2011 8/2/2011 No No
P.L. 112-26, The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 7/28/2011 8/3/2011 [7/28/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-27, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part IV 8/5/2011 8/5/2011 [8/5/2011] No
P.L. 112-28, To provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with greater authority and discretion in enforcing the consumer product safety laws, and for other purposes 8/5/2011 8/12/2011 [8/5/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-29, The America Invents Act 9/12/2011 9/16/2011 [9/12/2011] No
P.L. 112-30, The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 9/16/2011 9/16/2011 No No
P.L. 112-31, A bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 80 Lafayette Street in Jefferson City, Missouri, as the Christopher S. Bond United States Courthouse 9/22/2011 9/23/2011 [9/22/2011] No
P.L. 112-32, The Combating Autism 9/29/2011 9/30/2011 [9/29/2011] No
P.L. 112-33, The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 9/29/2011 9/30/2011 [9/29/2011] No
P.L. 112-34, The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act 9/27/2011 9/30/2011 [9/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-35, The Short-Term TANF Extension Act 9/27/2011 9/30/2011 [9/27/2011] No
P.L. 112-36, The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 10/4/2011 10/5/2011 [10/4/2011] No
P.L. 112-37, The Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011 9/27/2011 10/5/2011 [9/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-38, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1081 Elbel Road in Schertz, Texas, as the “Schertz Veterans Post Office” 10/6/2011 10/12/2011 [10/6/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-39, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5014 Gary Avenue in Lubbock, Texas, as the “Sergeant Chris Davis Post Office” 10/6/2011 10/12/2011 [10/6/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-40, To extend the Generalized System of Preferences, and for other purposes 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-41, The United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-42, The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-43, The United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-44, The United States Parole Commission Extension Act of 2011 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-45, To clarify the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior with respect to the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, and for other purposes 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 10/31/2011 Yes
P.L. 112-46, The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-47, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 489 Army Drive in Barrigada, Guam, as the “John Pangelinan Gerber Post Office Building” 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-48, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 281 East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, as the “First Lieutenant Oliver Goodall Post Office Building” 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-49, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 45 Meetinghouse Lane in Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts, as the “Matthew A. Pucino Post Office” 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-50, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4354 Pahoa Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the “Cecil L. Heftel Post Office Building” 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-51, The Removal Clarification Act of 2011 11/4/2011 11/9/2011 [11/4/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-52, To direct the Secretary of the Interior to allow for prepayment of repayment contracts between the United States and the Uintah Water Conservancy District 11/4/2011 11/9/2011 [11/4/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-53, The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2011 11/3/2011 11/9/2011 [11/3/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-54, The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2011 11/10/2011 11/12/2011 [11/10/2011] No
P.L. 112-55, The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 11/17/2011 11/18/2011 No No
P.L. 112-56, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3 percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities 11/19/2011 11/21/2011 No No
P.L. 112-57, The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 11/14/2011 11/21/2011 [11/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-58, To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to toll, during active-duty service abroad in the Armed Forces, the periods of time to file a petition and appear for an interview to remove the conditional basis for permanent resident status, and for other purposes 11/16/2011 11/23/2011 [11/16/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-59, To grant the congressional gold medal to the Montford Point Marines 11/15/2011 11/23/2011 [11/15/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-60, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 462 Washington Street, Woburn Massachusetts, as the “Officer John Maguire Post Office” 11/17/2011 11/23/2011 [11/17/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-61, The America’s Cup Act of 2011 11/18/2011 11/29/2011 [11/21/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-62, The Appeal Time Clarification Act of 2011 11/18/2011 11/29/2011 [11/18/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-63, The Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011 12/2/2011 12/7/2011 [12/2/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-64, The National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2011 12/7/2011 12/13/2011 [12/7/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-65, A bill to revise the Federal charter for the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. to reflect a change in eligibility requirements for membership 12/8/2011 12/13/2011 [12/8/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-66, A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize the American Legion under its Federal charter to provide guidance and leadership to the individual departments and posts of the American Legion, and for other purposes 12/8/2011 12/13/2011 [12/8/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-67, Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes 12/16/2011 12/16/2011 No No
P.L. 112-68, Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes 12/17/2011 12/17/2011 No No
P.L. 112-69, The Fort Pulaski National Monument Lease Authorization Act 12/9/2011 12/19/2011 [12/9/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-70, The Box Elder Utah Land Conveyance Act 12/9/2011 12/19/2011 [12/9/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-71, A joint resolution to grant the consent of Congress to an amendment to the compact between the States of Missouri and Illinois providing that bonds issued by the Bi-State Development Agency may mature in not to exceed 40 years 12/13/2011 12/19/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-72, The Hoover Power Allocation Act of 2011 12/13/2011 12/20/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-73, The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 12/13/2011 12/20/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-74, The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 12/21/2011 12/23/2011 [12/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-75, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2011 12/19/2011 12/23/2011 [12/19/2011] No
P.L. 112-76, The Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act 12/19/2011 12/23/2011 [12/19/2011] No
P.L. 112-77, The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2012 12/21/2011 12/23/2011 [12/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-78, The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 12/23/2011 12/23/2011 No No
P.L. 112-79, The Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act of 2011 12/20/2011 12/23/2011 [12/20/2011] No
P.L. 112-80, A bill to amend title 39, United States Code, to extend the authority of the United States Postal Service to issue a semipostal to raise funds for breast cancer research 12/16/2011 12/23/2011 [12/16/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-81, The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 12/21/2011 12/31/2011 [12/21/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-82, The Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2011 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-83, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 20 Main Street in Little Ferry, New Jersey, as the “Sergeant Matthew J. Fenton Post Office” 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-84, To protect the safety of judges by extending the authority of the Judicial Conference to redact sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports, and for other purposes 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-85, To designate the property between the United States Federal Courthouse and the Ed Jones Building located at 109 South Highland Avenue in Jackson, Tennessee, as the “M.D. Anderson Plaza” and to authorize the placement of a historical/identification marker on the grounds recognizing the achievements and philanthropy of M.D. Anderson 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-86, The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of The Armed Forces Act 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-87, The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-88, To instruct the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to study the impact of insured depository institution failures, and for other purposes 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-89, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 45 Bay Street, Suite 2, in Staten Island, New York, as the “Sergeant Angel Mendez Post Office” 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-90, The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-91, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2012 1/30/2012 1/30/2012 [1/31/2012] No
P.L. 112-92, The SOAR Technical Corrections Act 1/26/2012 2/1/2012 [1/26/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-93, The Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012 1/30/2012 2/10/2012 [1/30/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-94, To redesignate the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge as the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge 2/6/2012 2/14/2012 [2/6/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-95, The FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 2/8/2012 2/14/2012 [2/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-96, The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 2/22/2012 2/22/2012 [2/22/2012] No
P.L. 112-97, To provide the Quileute Indian Tribe Tsunami and Flood Protection, and for other purposes 2/16/2012 2/27/2012 [2/16/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-98, The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 3/1/2012 3/8/2012 [3/1/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-99, To apply the countervailing duty provisions of the Tariff Act of 1930 to nonmarket economy countries, and for other purposes 3/8/2012 3/13/2012 [3/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-100, The St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act 3/6/2012 3/14/2012 [3/6/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-101, A bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 222 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska, as the James M. Fitzgerald United States Courthouse 3/7/2012 3/14/2012 [3/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-102, The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 3/29/2012 3/30/2012 No No
P.L. 112-103, The HALE Scouts Act 3/22/2012 4/2/2012 [3/23/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-104, The United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act 3/23/2012 4/2/2012 [3/23/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-105, The STOCK Act 3/28/2012 4/4/2012 [3/28/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-106, The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act 3/27/2012 4/5/2012 [3/27/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-107, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 500 East Whitestone Boulevard in Cedar Park, Texas, as the “Army Specialist Matthew Troy Morris Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-108, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 115 4th Avenue Southwest in Ardmore, Oklahoma, as the “Specialist Micheal E. Phillips Post Office” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-109, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10 Main Street in East Rockaway, New York, as the “John J. Cook Post Office” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-110, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 801 West Eastport Street in Iuka, Mississippi, as the “Sergeant Jason W. Vaughn Post Office” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-111, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 67 Castle Street in Geneva, New York, as the “Corporal Steven Blaine Riccione Post Office” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-112, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 122 North Holderrieth Boulevard in Tomball, Texas, as the “Tomball Veterans Post Office” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-113, The Brian A. Terry Memorial Act 5/14/2012 5/15/2012 [5/14/2012] No
P.L. 112-114, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 8 West Silver Street in Westfield, Massachusetts, as the “William T. Trant Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-115, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 260 California Drive in Yountville, California, as the “Private First Class Alejandro R. Ruiz Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-116, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 15455 Manchester Road in Ballwin, Missouri, as the “Specialist Peter J. Navarro Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-117, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1100 Town and Country Commons in Chesterfield, Missouri, as the “Lance Corporal Matthew P. Pathenos Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 [5/8/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-118, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 112 South 5th Street in Saint Charles, Missouri, as the “Lance Corporal Drew W. Weaver Post Office Building” 5/8/2012 5/15/2012 No No
P.L. 112-119, A bill to authorize the Administrator of General Services to convey a parcel of real property in Tracy, California, to the City of Tracy 5/10/2012 5/15/2012 [5/10/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-120, To modify the Department of Defense Program Guidance relating to the award of Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence administrative absence days to members of the reserve components to exempt any member whose qualified mobilization commenced before October 1, 2011, and continued on or after that date, from the changes to the program guidance that took effect on that date 5/18/2012 5/25/2012 [5/18/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-121, The Temporary Bankruptcy Judgeships Extension Act of 2012 5/18/2012 5/25/2012 [5/18/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-122, The Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 5/21/2012 5/30/2012 [5/21/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-123, The National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act 5/31/2012 5/31/2012 [5/31/2012] No
P.L. 112-124, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 11 Dock Street in Pittston, Pennsylvania, as the “Trooper Joshua D. Miller Post Office Building” 5/29/2012 6/5/2012 [5/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-125, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 170 Evergreen Square SW in Pine City, Minnesota, as the “Master Sergeant Daniel L. Fedder Post Office” 5/29/2012 6/5/2012 [5/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-126, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1449 West Avenue in Bronx, New York, as the “Private Isaac T. Cortes Post Office” 5/29/2012 6/5/2012 [5/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-127, The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 5/29/2012 6/5/2012 [5/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-128, The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Backcountry Access Act 5/29/2011 6/5/2012 [5/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-129, To provide for the release of the reversionary interest held by the United States in certain land conveyed by the United States in 1950 for the establishment of an airport in Cook County, Minnesota 5/31/2012 6/8/2012 [5/31/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-130, To allow otherwise eligible Israeli nationals to receive E-2 nonimmigrant visas if similarly situated United States nationals are eligible for similar nonimmigrant status in Israel 5/31/2012 6/8/2012 [5/31/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-131, The John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2012 5/31/2012 6/8/2012 [5/31/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-132, A bill to allow the Chief of the Forest Service to award certain contracts for large air tankers 6/12/2012 6/13/2012 [6/12/2012] No
P.L. 112-133, The Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act 6/7/2012 6/15/2012 [6/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-134, A bill to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to convey property of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the City of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and for other purposes 6/7/2012 6/15/2012 [6/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-135, To make a technical correction in Public Law 112-108 6/11/2012 6/21/2012 [6/11/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-136, To correct a technical error in Public Law 112-122 6/11/2012 6/21/2012 [6/11/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-137, A bill to modify a land grant patent issued by the Secretary of the Interior 6/20/2012 6/27/2012 [6/20/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-138, A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain parcels of land to the town of Alta, Utah 6/20/2011 6/27/2012 [6/20/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-139, The East Bench Irrigation District Water Contract Extension Act 6/20/2012 6/27/2012 [6/20/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-140, The Temporary Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 6/29/2012 6/29/2012 No No
P.L. 112-141, The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II 7/2/2012 7/6/2012 [7/2/2012] No
P.L. 112-142, The Church Plan Investment Clarification Act 6/29/2012 7/9/2012 [7/9/2012] No
P.L. 112-143, To promote the development of the Southwest waterfront in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes 6/29/2012 7/9/2012 [7/9/2012] No
P.L. 112-144, The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act 6/28/2012 7/9/2012 [6/29/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-145, The District of Columbia Special Election Reform Act 7/16/2012 7/18/2012 [7/16/2012] No
P.L. 112-146, The Former Charleston Naval Base Land Exchange Act of 2012 7/12/2012 7/18/2012 [7/12/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-147, The Veteran Skills to Jobs Act 7/19/2012 7/23/2012 [7/19/2012] No
P.L. 112-148, The Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act 7/19/2012 7/26/2012 [7/19/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-149, The Insular Areas Act of 2011 7/19/2012 7/26/2012 [7/19/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-150, The United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 7/19/2012 7/27/2012 [7/19/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-151, The HEARTH Act of 2011 7/19/2012 7/30/2012 [7/19/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-152, The National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act 7/25/2012 8/3/2012 [7/25/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-153, The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 7/26/2012 8/3/2012 [7/26/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-154, To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for certain requirements for the placement of monuments in Arlington National Cemetery, and for other purposes 8/3/2012 8/6/2012 No No
P.L. 112-155, The Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 7/27/2012 8/7/2012 [7/27/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-156, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1021 Pennsylvania Avenue in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, as the “Warren Lindley Post Office” 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/10/2011] No
P.L. 112-157, To amend the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act to allow the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Tribe to determine blood quantum requirement for membership in that tribe 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 No No
P.L. 112-158, The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-159, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2810 East Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, Florida, as the “Reverend Abe Brown Post Office Building” 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-160, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1421 Veterans Memorial Drive in Abbeville, Louisiana, as the “Sergeant Richard Franklin Abshire Post Office Building” 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-161, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 125 Kerr Avenue in Rome City, Indiana, as the “SPC Nicholas Scott Hartge Post Office” 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-162, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 150 South Union Street in Canton, Mississippi, as the “First Sergeant Landres Cheeks Post Office Building” 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-163, To amend the African Growth and Opportunity Act to extend the third-country fabric program and to add South Sudan to the list of countries eligible for designation under that Act, to make technical corrections to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States relating to the textile and apparel rules of origin for the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement, to approve the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, and for other purposes 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-164, The La Pine Land Conveyance Act 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-165, The Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-166, The Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 8/2/2012 8/10/2012 [8/2/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-167, A bill to authorize the Architect of the Capitol to establish battery recharging stations for privately owned vehicles in parking areas under the jurisdiction of the Senate at no net cost to the Federal Government 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-168, The Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2011 8/2/2012 8/10/2012 [8/2/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-169, A bill to provide for the use of National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center Commemorative Coin surcharges, and for other purposes 8/3/2012 8/10/2012 [8/3/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-170, To authorize the Architect of the Capitol to establish battery recharging stations for privately owned vehicles in parking areas under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives at no net cost to the Federal Government 8/7/2012 8/16/2012 [8/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-171, To require the Transportation Security Administration to comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act 8/7/2012 8/16/2012 [8/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-172, The Ambassador James R. Lilley and Congressman Stephen J. Solarz North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2012 8/7/2012 8/16/2012 [8/7/2012] Yes
P.L. 112-173, A bill to prevent harm to the national security or endangering the military officers and civilian employees to whom internet publication of certain information applies, and for other purposes 8/16/2012 8/16/2012 No No

[Brackets indicate a link from Whitehouse.gov to Thomas legislative database]

‡ Link to final version of bill on impossible-to-find page.

OMB’s Laggard Transparency Record

On Monday, I wrote about the rapidly growing movement to replace the Office of Management and Budget with a different coordinator for standardized publication of government spending data. Why? Because the OMB hasn’t been standardizing and publishing data about government spending. That’s why.

Yesterday, Kaitlin Lee posted a three-part indictment of the OMB on the Sunlight Foundation blog, called “OMB’s Commitment to Data Quality: Too Little, Too Late.” Lee is deeply knowledgeable in this area and extraordinarily patient with the data problems the government throws at her. Credit what you read in her blog post.

(See also the Data Transparency Coalition’s rebuttal of OMB controller Danny Werfel, who appears to be guiding the Obama administration toward opposition to spending data transparency.)

The drumbeat for better data is growing louder, it’s pan-ideological, and it’s non-partisan. Will the OMB preempt the DATA Act by moving forward with real data reforms, or will Congress preempt the OMB’s role?

Data Transparency Coalition Debuts Today

Meet the Data Transparency Coalition.

The Washington Post’s Capitol Business blog reports this morning:

A small but growing collection of companies has formed a coalition that will push the federal government to establish a standard system by which agencies categorize their data. …

“Our members understand that if the government identified its data elements in consistent ways, there would be vast new opportunities for the tools that they are building,” Executive Director Hudson Hollister said.

Early supporters include Microsoft and data analysis and management firms Level One Technologies, Teradata, and BrightScope. I’m on their Board of Advisors. One of their early priorities will be to pass H.R. 2146, the DATA Act.

Cato has worked extensively on government transparency, beginning with our December 2008 policy forum entitled, “Just Give Us the Data! Prospects for Putting Government Information to Revolutionary New Uses.”

We have modeled much of the data that the government should be publishing in standardized formats (much more cheaply than CBO has estimated it would cost) and graded the quality of current data publication in the areas of congressional process and budgeting, appropriating, and spending. Expect improvements to come with this new organization joining other efforts.

Follow the coalition’s founder and executive director on Twitter @hudsonhollister, and you can Like their Facebook page, as well, to get updates that way.

Sunlight Before Signing, Year Three

In last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama called for tax law reforms he says we need. Cato scholars have their doubts about much of what was in the speech, but my interest was piqued by the fact that he said, “Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.”

You see signing them “right away” would again violate his 2008 campaign promise to post the bills sent him by Congress online for five days before signing them.

That’s a cheeky point, but it is time to focus on campaign promises and their honesty. The beginning of President Obama’s fourth year in office is roughly the beginning of his campaign for another term.

When I first began tracking President Obama’s Sunlight Before Signing promise, I joked with friends that it was career gold because I could write hundreds of blog posts for the next four years without thinking a new thought. Well, it’s not quite that good. This is post thirty-six in the SBS series.

(Each character in that last sentence was a link to a previous post. You can spend a whole day reviewing them!)

Last Thursday, January 19th, was the end of President Obama’s third year, so it’s time to review how he’s been doing with Sunlight Before Signing. It was the president’s first broken promise, and at the mid-point of the term he had popped just above 50% in his compliance.

How has he done in the ensuing year?

Well … meh.

Of the 90 bills that became law in the last year, 55 got the Sunlight Before Signing treatment. That’s a 61.1% average, good enough to earn a middle-school student a D.

Number of Bills Emergency Bills Bills Posted Five Days
2009 124 0 6
2010 258 1 186
2011 90 0 55
Overall 472 1 247


Year three was stronger than the previous two, so President Obama’s overall Sunlight Before Signing record moves to 52.4%. That’s poor execution on a transparency promise that energized audiences on the 2008 campaign trail. But let’s dig a little deeper.

At the end of the second year, we did some analysis and graphing to explore the hunch that inconsequential bills get plenty of sunlight and the more important ones do not. We return to that analysis.

Our first look is at compliance with Sunlight Before Signing over time. The updated numbers show essentially the same as they did before. After a first year of outright failure, there has been improvement—nowhere near perfection, just improvement.

(You can also see that Congress’ output dropped dramatically in 2011. That’s a matter of indifference in terms of Sunlight Before Signing—and a good thing if you like limited government.)

Click on the image at right to see a chart of compliance and non-compliance by number of bills over time, then compliance as a percentage of bills over time, and, in the pie chart, that overall compliance figure.

We also investigated previously the hunch that important bills get less sunlight, while unimportant bills get more. Our first proxy for importance—a rough one—was the number of pages in the bills coming to the president. Generally speaking, longer bills are more important than shorter ones. The second set of charts (click on the left) show Sunlight Before Signing compliance and non-compliance over time by number of pages, compliance by percentage of pages, and overall compliance by number of pages. You can see that overall compliance drops well below 50% to about 36%.

Another proxy for importance is the number of final passage votes a bill got in the House and Senate. Generally speaking—and it’s definitely not always true—more important bills are voted on in the House, the Senate, or both. Less important bills go through on voice vote, unanimous consent, and so on. (Sometimes important bills go through without votes because the political balances are so carefully struck. That’s good for Congress “getting things done,” but not good for transparency or your ability to oversee the government.)

Go ahead and click on the image to the right and you can see the charts reflecting Sunlight Before Signing compliance and non-compliance over time with multipliers given to bills getting one or two final votes. That result is not so decisive: compliance drops by a small amount to about 50%.

There’s still time for President Obama to execute on Sunlight Before Signing. He could make a real run at transparency by signalling right now—today—that all bills will get five-days online before he signs them. If Congress wants to finish appropriations this year at the last minute. They had better do that at the last minute plus five days or else the government will shut down.

Maybe that’s a silly idea. Maybe no president in his right mind would do something like that. If so, consider that President Obama promised to do exactly that when he campaigned for the presidency. If he was being fanciful during his last campaign, voters might consider that during his next campaign, just as they consider the credibility of all candidates. President Obama’s transparency promises have been unparalleled. His results … quite paralleled.

Perhaps President Obama is going to limp to the next election without fulfilling Sunlight Before Signing. The president could still score some real transparency points by publishing a machine-readable organization chart for the executive branch, with agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects all uniquely identified for computer processing. That would be big, and it would not be that hard.

In the meantime, here are the Sunlight Before Signing results for all the bills signed into law during President Obama’s third year.

Public Law Date Presented Date Signed Posted [(Linked)]? Posted Five Days?
P.L. 112-1, To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small

Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes

1/28/2011 1/31/2011 [1/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-2, A bill to designate the United States courthouse under construction at 98 West

First Street, Yuma, Arizona, as the “John M. Roll United States Courthouse”

2/11/2011 2/17/2011 [2/11/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-3, The FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 2/23/2011 2/25/2011 [2/23/2011 No
P.L. 112-4, The Further Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011 3/2/2011 3/2/2011 [3/2/2011] No
P.L. 112-5, The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 3/3/2011 3/4/2011 No No
P.L. 112-6, The Additional Continuing Appropriations Amendments, 2011 3/17/2011 3/18/2011 No No
P.L. 112-7, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011 3/30/2011 3/31/2011 3/30/2011 No
P.L. 112-8, The Department of Defense and Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act,

2011

4/9/2011 4/9/2011 No No
P.L. 112-9, The Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy

Overpayments Act of 2011

4/6/2011 4/14/2011 [4/7/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-10, The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act,

2011

4/15/2011 4/15/2011 [4/14/2011] No
P.L. 112-11, A bill to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located

at 217 West King Street, Martinsburg, West Virginia, as the “W. Craig Broadwater Federal Building and United States Courthouse”

4/14/2011 4/25/2011 [4/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-12, A joint resolution providing for the appointment of Stephen M. Case as a

citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution

4/14/2011 4/25/2011 [4/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-13, To amend the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act to extend the termination

date for the Commission, and for other purposes

5/2/2011 5/12/2011 [5/2/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-14, The PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 5/26/2011 5/26/2011 No No
P.L. 112-15, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 12781

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Inverness, California, as the “Specialist Jake Robert Velloza Post Office”

5/26/2011 5/31/2011 [5/26/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-16, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part II 5/26/2011 5/31/2011 [5/26/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-17, The Small Business Additional Temporary Extension Act of 2011 6/1/2011 6/1/2011 [6/1/2011] No
P.L. 112-18, The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 6/1/2011 6/8/2011 [6/1/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-19, A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Shirley Ann Jackson as a

citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution

6/21/2011 6/24/2011 [6/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-20, A joint resolution providing for the reappointment of Robert P. Kogod as a

citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution

6/21/2011 6/24/2011 [6/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-21, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part III 6/28/2011 6/29/2011 [6/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-22, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at

4865 Tallmadge Road in Rootstown, Ohio, as the “Marine Sgt. Jeremy E. Murray Post

6/23/2011 6/29/2011 [6/23/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-23, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at

95 Dogwood Street in Cary, Mississippi, as the “Spencer Byrd Powers, Jr. Post Office”

6/23/2011 6/29/2011 [6/23/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-24, A bill to extend the term of the incumbent Director of the Federal Bureau of

Investigation

7/26/2011 7/26/2011 [7/26/2011] No
P.L. 112-25, The Budget Control Act of 2011 8/2/2011 8/2/2011 No No
P.L. 112-26, The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 7/28/2011 8/3/2011 [7/28/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-27, The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2011, Part IV 8/5/2011 8/5/2011 [8/5/2011] No
P.L. 112-28, To provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with greater authority and

discretion in enforcing the consumer product safety laws, and for other purposes

8/5/2011 8/12/2011 [8/5/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-29, The America Invents Act 9/12/2011 9/16/2011 [9/12/2011] No
P.L. 112-30, The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 9/16/2011 9/16/2011 No No
P.L. 112-31, A bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 80 Lafayette Street

in Jefferson City, Missouri, as the Christopher S. Bond United States Courthouse

9/22/2011 9/23/2011 [9/22/2011] No
P.L. 112-32, The Combating Autism 9/29/2011 9/30/2011 [9/29/2011] No
P.L. 112-33, The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 9/29/2011 9/30/2011 [9/29/2011] No
P.L. 112-34, The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act 9/27/2011 9/30/2011 [9/28/2011] No
P.L. 112-35, The Short-Term TANF Extension Act 9/27/2011 9/30/2011 [9/27/2011] No
P.L. 112-36, The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 10/4/2011 10/5/2011 [10/4/2011] No
P.L. 112-37, The Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act of 2011 9/27/2011 10/5/2011 [9/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-38, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1081

Elbel Road in Schertz, Texas, as the “Schertz Veterans Post Office”

10/6/2011 10/12/2011 [10/6/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-39, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5014

Gary Avenue in Lubbock, Texas, as the “Sergeant Chris Davis Post Office”

10/6/2011 10/12/2011 [10/6/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-40, To extend the Generalized System of Preferences, and for other purposes

10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-41, The United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-42, The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-43, The United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-44, The United States Parole Commission Extension Act of 2011 10/13/2011 10/21/2011 [10/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-45, To clarify the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior with respect to

the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir, and for other purposes

10/31/2011 11/7/2011 10/31/2011 Yes
P.L. 112-46, The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-47, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 489

Army Drive in Barrigada, Guam, as the “John Pangelinan Gerber Post Office Building”

10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-48, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 281

East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, as the “First Lieutenant Oliver Goodall Post Office Building”

10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-49, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 45

Meetinghouse Lane in Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts, as the “Matthew A. Pucino Post Office”

10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-50, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4354

Pahoa Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the “Cecil L. Heftel Post Office Building”

10/31/2011 11/7/2011 [10/31/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-51, The Removal Clarification Act of 2011 11/4/2011 11/9/2011 [11/4/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-52, To direct the Secretary of the Interior to allow for prepayment of repayment

contracts between the United States and the Uintah Water Conservancy District

11/4/2011 11/9/2011 [11/4/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-53, The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2011 11/3/2011 11/9/2011 [11/3/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-54, The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of

2011

11/10/2011 11/12/2011 [11/10/2011] No
P.L. 112-55, The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 11/17/2011 11/18/2011 No No
P.L. 112-56, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3

percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities

11/19/2011 11/21/2011 No No
P.L. 112-57, The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 11/14/2011 11/21/2011 [11/14/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-58, To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to toll, during active-duty

service abroad in the Armed Forces, the periods of time to file a petition and appear for an interview to remove the conditional basis for permanent resident status,

and for other purposes

11/16/2011 11/23/2011 [11/16/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-59, To grant the congressional gold medal to the Montford Point Marines 11/15/2011 11/23/2011 [11/15/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-60, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at

462 Washington Street, Woburn Massachusetts, as the “Officer John Maguire Post Office”

11/17/2011 11/23/2011 [11/17/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-61, The America’s Cup Act of 2011 11/18/2011 11/29/2011 [11/21/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-62, The Appeal Time Clarification Act of 2011 11/18/2011 11/29/2011 [11/18/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-63, The Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2011 12/2/2011 12/7/2011 [12/2/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-64, The National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2011 12/7/2011 12/13/2011 [12/7/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-65, A bill to revise the Federal charter for the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.

to reflect a change in eligibility requirements for membership

12/8/2011 12/13/2011 [12/8/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-66, A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to authorize the American Legion

under its Federal charter to provide guidance and leadership to the individual departments and posts of the American Legion, and for other purposes

12/8/2011 12/13/2011 [12/8/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-67, Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other

purposes

12/16/2011 12/16/2011 No No
P.L. 112-68, Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and for other

purposes

12/17/2011 12/17/2011 No No
P.L. 112-69, The Fort Pulaski National Monument Lease Authorization Act 12/9/2011 12/19/2011 [12/9/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-70, The Box Elder Utah Land Conveyance Act 12/9/2011 12/19/2011 [12/9/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-71, A joint resolution to grant the consent of Congress to an amendment to the

compact between the States of Missouri and Illinois providing that bonds issued by the Bi-State Development Agency may mature in not to exceed 40 years

12/13/2011 12/19/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-72, The Hoover Power Allocation Act of 2011 12/13/2011 12/20/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-73, The Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 12/13/2011 12/20/2011 [12/13/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-74, The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 12/21/2011 12/23/2011 [12/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-75, The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reform and

Reauthorization Act of 2011

12/19/2011 12/23/2011 [12/19/2011] No
P.L. 112-76, The Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act 12/19/2011 12/23/2011 [12/19/2011] No
P.L. 112-77, The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2012 12/21/2011 12/23/2011 [12/21/2011] No
P.L. 112-78, The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 12/23/2011 12/23/2011 No No
P.L. 112-79, The Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act of 2011 12/20/2011 12/23/2011 [12/20/2011] No
P.L. 112-80, A bill to amend title 39, United States Code, to extend the authority of the

United States Postal Service to issue a semipostal to raise funds for breast cancer research

12/16/2011 12/23/2011 [12/16/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-81, The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 12/21/2011 12/31/2011 [12/21/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-82, The Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2011 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-83, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 20

Main Street in Little Ferry, New Jersey, as the “Sergeant Matthew J. Fenton Post Office”

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-84, To protect the safety of judges by extending the authority of the Judicial

Conference to redact sensitive information contained in their financial disclosure reports, and for other purposes

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-85, To designate the property between the United States Federal Courthouse and the

Ed Jones Building located at 109 South Highland Avenue in Jackson, Tennessee, as the “M.D. Anderson Plaza” and to authorize the placement of a

historical/identification marker on the grounds recognizing the achievements and philanthropy of M.D. Anderson

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-86, The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of The Armed Forces Act 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-87, The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-88, To instruct the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

to study the impact of insured depository institution failures, and for other purposes

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-89, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 45 Bay

Street, Suite 2, in Staten Island, New York, as the “Sergeant Angel Mendez Post Office”

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes
P.L. 112-90, The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of

2011

12/23/2011 1/3/2012 [12/27/2011] Yes



[Brackets indicate a link from Whitehouse.gov to Thomas legislative database]

There’s No Machine-Readable Government Org Chart

At a recent Cato event on transparency, I emphasized that there is no federal government “organization chart” published in a way computers can use.

Here’s what I mean:

Appendix C of the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-11 is the White House’s definitive public listing of agencies and bureaus, along with their OMB and Treasury codes—unique identifiers for the agencies and bureaus of the federal government.

First problem: It’s a PDF document. To be computer-usable this should be represented in digital form as a lookup table.

But beyond that, it doesn’t follow a coherent organization. There’s an agency code (“200”) called “Other Defense Civil Programs,” for example. There’s obviously no agency called “Other Defense Civil Programs.” That’s a catch-all description, not an agency.

With most agencies, the bureau codes refer to bureaus, such as the Bureau of Land Management (bureau code: “04”) in the Department of the Interior (agency code: “010”), but with respect to the Department of Defense (agency code: “007”), the bureau codes become functional descriptions such as “Military Personnel” (“05”). There is no bureau in the Department of Defense called “Military Personnel.”

Even the most basic organizational information is a hash, and it’s published in PDF, unusable for computer-assisted oversight of the government!

The House appears committed to improving its publication practices. If the administration wants to advance the ball on transparency for its part, it will begin to publish coherent information—starting with basic information about the organization of the executive branch—in machine-readable form, using standardized identifiers. An edict from OMB to harmonize on identifiers down to the program level could be implemented in months, if not weeks.

My recent paper “Publication Practices for Transparent Government” talks about what to do. Our data model for budgeting, appropriating, and spending articulates how government agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects—and the relationships among them—should be represented.

Why Data Transparency?

At a recent Capitol Hill briefing on government transparency, I made an effort to describe the importance of getting data from the government reflecting its deliberations, management, and results.

I analogized to the World Wide Web. The structure that allows you to find and then view a blog post as a blog post is called hypertext markup language, or html. HTML is what made the Internet into the huge, rollicking information machine you see today. Think of the darkness we lived in before we had it.

Government information is not yet published in useable formats—as data—for the public to use as it sees fit. We need government information published as data, so we can connect it in new ways, the way the World Wide Web allowed connections among documents, images, and sounds.

And when you connect data together, you get power in a way that doesn’t happen with the web, with documents. You get this really huge power out of it.

Tim Berners-Lee was not thinking of wresting power from government when he said that, but the inventor of the World Web does a better job than I could of arguing for getting data and making it available for any use. We’ll look back on today with bemusement and surprise at the paucity of information we had about our government’s activities and expenditures.

The DATA Act and Cato’s Transparency Work

In his final “Chairman’s Corner” blog post as head of the White House’s Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, Earl Devaney highlights the need for orderly publication of data about government spending.

There is bi-partisan legislation now in the Congress—it’s called the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act—that could accomplish this mission. But the reform bill faces an uphill battle, primarily because some in the bureaucracy prefer the status quo—a hodgepodge of data collection and display sites that, frankly, makes no sense at all unless you believe your government should confuse you.

The DATA Act would establish an independent board within the executive branch to track federal spending, and it would require federal agencies and recipients of federal funds to comply with reporting requirements set up by the board.

The board would “designate common data elements, such as codes, identifiers, and fields, for information required to be reported by recipients or agencies” (section 102 of the reported version, adding a new §3611 to title 31 of the U.S. code). The bill’s author, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), spoke at our September Capitol Hill briefing, rolling out our legislative data model.

On Wednesday, another Cato Capitol Hill briefing highlighted the results of our work the last few months to model federal budgeting, appropriating, and spending. Should the DATA Act become law, the model we’ve been working on can illuminate the work of the proposed board. Use of our model will help ensure that the structure of government spending data supports public oversight use cases.

I don’t know that there needs to be a board—certainly not a permanent one. The bill authorizes more money than I think is required for the board, and the Congressional Budget Office’s cost estimate for implementing the requirements of the DATA Act seems wildly high. But the dynamics set in motion by making government spending more transparent may well reduce government spending by well more than even these high estimated costs.