piles of documents (Nuk2013/Shutterstock.com)

One website for all congressional reports

In congressionally mandated reports, federal agencies update legislators on programs, laws, and other aspects of government to inform policy or debate. While some of those reports make headlines, many wind up posted deep in an agency website, all but unnoticed. A new bill from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) would make it easier to find these reports and take advantage of the research in them.

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act would create a searchable central website for congressionally mandated reports.

"An open and more user friendly data system" would make these reports more accessible to the public, journalists, researchers and congressional staff, Quigley said in a statement.

The public-facing website would be created and maintained by the Government Publishing Office and would hold electronic copies of reports in an open format that’s “based on an underlying open standard,” according to the bill’s text.

Gary Somerset, a spokesperson for GPO, said the agency is familiar with the bill and is ready to implement it if it’s passed. IT will build a system to acquire and manage these reports, which will be publically available at govinfo.gov, Somerset said in an email. He said GPO expects the system to cost between $350,000 and $500,000.

The site would allow federal agencies to submit reports, and users could search for reports based on multiple criteria and do bulk downloads.

Peter Tyler, a senior policy analyst at the Project On Government Oversight, said that, currently, it's too easy lose track of government reports.

“Too often,” Tyler wrote in a blog post, “a report mandated by Congress gets completed, but is hard or impossible to find on the agency website. Sometimes only a small number of copies are delivered by an agency to a Committee, for example, fulfilling the letter of the law, but not seen by others who need to know. Congressional staff looking even a few months after the official publication date may have to make multiple calls to agencies in order to track down a copy.”

This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced. It’s been a policy priority for the Sunlight Foundation, and retired Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced a bill in 2011 under the same name that died in committee.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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