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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
President Obama is signing much-needed reforms to the Freedom of Information Act into law at 4 PM today. https://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/30/in-a-victory-for-open-government-president-obama-signs-foia-reform-into-law/

As we've written before, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 is the result of years of work by advocates in Washington.

It is neither as strong nor as flawed a bill as it might have been, but codifying a “presumption of openness" for disclosing government records to the public is unquestionably a step forward for the United States. It's also a rare, welcome example of bicameral bipartisanship in a Congress notable for polarization, as well as an important victory for transparency in a city that needs it.
We commend President Obama for signing crucial FOIA reforms into law. Above, Obama signs legislation on Jan. 4, 2011. (Photo credit: Official White House Photo/Flickr) Today, we are celebrating President Barack Obama signing much-needed reforms to the Freedom of Information Act into law, just in time for the 50th birthday ...
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
[NEW] 7 Ways to Make the Freedom of Information Act Better http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/24/7-ideas-to-make-the-freedom-of-information-act-better/

Even if the Obama administration has not lived up to the standard set in rhetoric, the next White House will have to do so. Here’s a some ideas to improve FOIA that don’t require more legislation, along with some that probably will.
A heavily redacted FOIA request. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons) When Sunlight signed onto the 50 Days of FOIA campaign, we expected to be adding our voice and ideas to those of dozens of other open government allies pushing for Congress to pass legislative reforms to the Freedom of Information Act ...
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Sharon Fisher

Discussion  - 
 
Malamud’s contention is that the case law is inseparable from the law itself. That’s aside from his claim that he’s performing a public service by making the law freely available in a way that’s typically easier to search and for open data efforts to use than the way it’s online originally.
Should private companies be able to claim copyright on the law? Internet activist Carl Malamud doesn't think so, and he's taking the issue to court.
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
The newest edition of Today in Open Government is live! Please read, comment and share.
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/20/today-in-opengov-help-us-improve-our-census-of-open-data-in-u-s-cities/
The Sunlight Foundation is taking on more responsibility for administering the next US City Open Data Census and would love your have ideas about how we can improve it. Please check it out and send an email to the US City Open Data Census team or fill out our feedback ...
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
[NEW] My thoughts on Congress passing Freedom of Information Act reform, and the road ahead: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/14/celebrating-freedom-of-information-act-reform-in-congress-and-the-road-ahead/

Monday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to send the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 to the White House is the culmination of a decade of work from a coalition of advocates to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill codifies a “presumption of openness,” strengthens the proactive disclosure of information in digital formats and the Office of Government Information Services, directs the White House to create software for creating requests, and requires all federal agencies to update their regulations.

The passage of the bipartisan bill was applauded on both sides of the aisle, as it should be: The path to any historic reform in Congress is a long and winding one, with fits, starts, disappointments, setbacks, frustration and, in the case of FOIA reform, secret opposition from agencies, financial interests and the Justice Department itself, followed by failure. Thankfully, we saw a different outcome in 2016.
U.S. Capitol. (Photo credit: Bill Rand/Flickr) Monday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to send the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 to the White House is the culmination of a decade of work from a coalition of advocates to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill codifies ...
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
The Sunlight Foundation is looking for a quantitative analyst: http://sunlightfoundation.com/jobs/216-quantitative-analyst/ You'd be helping cities throughout the U.S. access and understand trends and best practices in open data policy and practices, formulate policy, build amazing data visualizations and interactives, and help build the future of open government. If that's you, please apply!
Come work with us at the Sunlight Foundation and help make government more transparent!
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
TODAY IN OPEN GOVERNMENT: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/27/today-in-opengov-emailgate-justice-data-foia/

HILLARY'S EMAIL SCANDAL CONTINUES: The release of a critical report on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices by U.S. State Department’s inspector general answered some questions that have lingered since last March, leaves others to linger, and provided a moment to think about what the whole affair can tell us about open government. http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/26/what-a-state-departments-inspector-general-can-tell-us-about-open-government/

IN DATA VERITAS: Sunlight added another 125 new datasets from the Police Data Initiative to our Hall of Justice database, joining almost 10,000 other criminal justice data sets from 50 states and the District of Columbia. http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/26/sunlight-adds-more-than-100-new-datasets-to-our-hall-of-justice-database/

404 OGE: The arc of openness does not always bend towards increased transparency. In 2012, Sunlight praised the Obama administration for making it easier to access public disclosure forms online. In 2016, the Obama administration has removed conflict of interest reports filed to the Office of Government Ethics by top federal officials from the Internet.

That news, and much more, at the Sunlight Foundation's blog: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/27/today-in-opengov-emailgate-justice-data-foia/
HILLARY'S EMAIL SCANDAL CONTINUES: The release of a critical report on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices by U.S. State Department’s inspector general answered some questions that have lingered since last March, leaves others to linger, and provided a moment to think about what the whole affair can ...
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Sharon Fisher

Discussion  - 
 
Do we really want legislators mandating the technology that state agencies should use? When we’ve seen the tenuous grasp that government officials have on technology such as encryption, is it a good idea for them to pick winners and losers in technology?
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
Seven years ago, Sunlight's founding executive director, Ellen Miller, wrote that opening up Congressional Research Service (CRS( reports "is an easy transparency reform that boggles the mind as to why it has not yet been done." Sadly, that remains true today.

As Matt Fuller reported, "at a time when highly informed voters might seem like a good thing, the Appropriations Committee voted down, 18-32, an amendment from Reps. Mike Quigely (D-Ill.) and Scott Rigell (R-Va.) that would have made it easier for the public to access Congressional Research Service reports."

The Sunlight Foundation has called for public access to publicly funded research for years. We're not going to stop.. https://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/18/today-in-opengov-congress-misses-opportunity-to-open-crs-reports-to-the-public-again/
CLOSED CRS: Seven years ago, Sunlight's founding executive director, Ellen Miller, wrote that opening up the Congressional Research Service
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
 
"When it comes to the United States Supreme Court and the world of campaign finance and corruption, we are often confronted with the law as it is and the law as it should be. There’s an interpretation of law according to the court, and how it plays out in the real world. The reporting of Adam Liptak in The New York Times was prophetic: On Monday, the highest court in the land issued a unanimous decision that vacated former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction for corruption.

The Economist wrote in April that the Supreme Court was inclined to loosen bribery rules; Jeffrey Toobin wrote that it was getting ready to legalize corruption. This may have felt like hyperbole, and yet here we are. The public knows that there’s no such thing as a free Rolex. The highest court in the land has unfortunately decided otherwise.

The broader import of the Supreme Court’s judgment, however, goes far beyond the case of the McDonnells, who could be tried again. By narrowly defining what an official act is and raising the standard of evidence required for a conviction, this decision will erode the ability of prosecutors across the United States to make corruption cases stick in court."
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/28/supreme-court-decision-on-mcdonnell-opens-worrying-new-horizons-for-corruption/
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, pictured in a Ferrari. (Photo credit: Department of Justice) When it comes to the United States Supreme Court and the world of campaign finance and corruption, we are often confronted with the law as it is and the law as it ...
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Alexander Howard
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open government  - 
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
My report back from the 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/22/congress-commits-to-making-deliberative-decisions-more-transparent-online/ There is important, good news to amplify.
House Speaker Paul Ryan at LDTC 2016. (Photo credit: Alex Howard/Sunlight Foundation) Yesterday at the 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stood up and congratulated all of the people who have been working to open up the legislative branch of the United States to ...
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
I'm at the U.S. Capitol today, attending the Legislative Data and Transparency Conference. Here's my scene setter looking at just how much has changed here over the past decade:
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/21/a-decade-of-progress-opening-up-congressional-data-to-the-public/


The U.S. Capitol. (Photo credit: The Architect of the Capitol/Wikimedia Commons; effects by Sunlight Foundation) Over the past decade, the legislative branch of the United States government has gone through a quiet evolution, moving in fits and starts to integrate the revolution in information technology that has changed every other ...
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
Making meaningful improvements to how the federal government uses the internet can take years, new laws, regulations, demonstration projects, testimony and dogged persistence by public interest advocates and reformers in the pursuit of change. Then, all at once, a dam breaks and a new resource blossoms into a commons online. June 15, 2016 was such a day, when the IRS has begun publishing electronic nonprofit tax returns online in a machine-readable format on Amazon Web Services.

The Sunlight Foundation has long held that nonprofit e-file data should be open. Now it is. http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/16/irs-opens-up-form-990-data-ushering-nonprofit-sector-into-the-age-of-transparency/
Making meaningful improvements to how the federal government uses the internet can take years, new laws, regulations, demonstration projects, testimony and dogged persistence by public interest advocates and reformers in the pursuit of change. Then, all at once, a dam breaks and a new resource blossoms into a commons online. ...
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Good news for all.
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2016 – Today, the House passed the FOIA Improvement Act (S.337), bringing the comprehensive FOIA reform bill one step closer to becoming law. The FOIA Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March and, in a bicameral & bipartisan effort to ensure the FOIA legislation is signed into law during this Congress, House leadership decided to vote on the Senate version, and send the bill to the White House for the P...
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
A coalition of civil liberties, privacy & transparency organizations was able to get more time for the public to comment on the FBI's proposed exemptions from the Privacy Act for its database of fingerprints and photographs. Please share and comment on the issue: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/06/03/the-fbi-shouldnt-restrict-the-publics-right-to-know-about-our-data/
(Photo credit: nolifebeforecoffee/Flickr) As The Washington Post reported this week, the FBI wants to exempt its growing database of fingerprints and photographs from Privacy Act rules. The Privacy Act of 1974, which was enacted as a way to ensure that federal agencies protected the expanding amount of private information that ...
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yes
thank you alex,
i'm happy to meet you, Alex
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Sharon Fisher

Discussion  - 
 
The database will provide a treasure trove for users such as students, bankers, home buyers, family historians, urban planners and journalists investigating historical and financial development of New York property and infrastructure, or researching family history. The project is particularly tantalizing because no other city of New York’s size and importance has a comparable historical database.
NYU's Tandon School of Engineering was recently awarded a $260,000 grant to digitize NYC records—more than a hundred years' and a million pages' worth.
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
If you're going to propose reforms or changes to a key transparency law, this is not the way to do it. In a new post, John Wonderlich and I call attention to a new effort in Congress to change how the Government in the Sunshine Act applies to the Federal Trade Commission:
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/23/congress-considers-rolling-back-sunshine-act/
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Alexander Howard
owner

open government  - 
 
The U.S. Department of the Interior should honor the intent of Congress and answer requests from the Office of Government Information Services to media disputed Freedom of Information Act requests. http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2016/05/19/the-interior-department-should-honor-congress-intentions-on-foia-mediation/
According to a letter published by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the U.S. Department of the Interior is effectively ignoring six attempts by the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Ombudsman to mediate FOIA requests dating back to February 2015. In doing so, Interior is honoring neither the ...
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