Rep. Israel Introduces Public Online Information Act – Groundbreaking Transparency Legislation
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Steve Israel (D – New York) announced the introduction of H.R. 4312, the Public Online Information Act of 2014, groundbreaking transparency legislation that would redefine the government meaning of “public.”
Rep. Israel said, “Every day, 85 percent of American adults use the internet. Our government should reflect that. People across the country – from scholars to school children – should be able to see any public government information from the convenience of their computer. That’s why I’m reintroducing my legislation to require that all executive branch agencies make their public documents easily available and searchable on the internet.”
The Public Online Information Act (POIA) requires executive branch agencies to publish all publicly available information on the Internet in a timely fashion and in user-friendly formats. The legislation requires each agency to establish a searchable catalog of all disclosed public documents. It also creates an advisory committee to help develop government-wide Internet publication policies. Rep. Israel previously introduced the legislation in the 111th and 112th Congress.
“The Public Online Information Act marks significant progress toward moving the government into the online public square,” said Sunlight Foundation Policy Director John Wonderlich. “For too long, inadequate and antiquated government disclosure practices have kept the public out of public information, and by moving more of this information online, we can make it accessible to all.”
Daniel Schuman, Policy Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said, “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington applauds Representative Steve Israel for fighting for transparency by reintroducing landmark legislation requiring that government-held information intended for the public be available online. The Public Online Information Act makes it easier for Americans to hold government accountable and find out what is being done in our name.”
Under POIA, The Office of Management and Budget’s E-Government Administrator and Chief Information Officers at independent agencies are responsible for crafting regulations to implement POIA. The public is granted a limited private right of action (similar to that under the Freedom Of Information Act) to guarantee that the government lives up to its transparency obligations. There are commonsense exemptions for trade secrets, matters of national security, personal privacy and other information that is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Internet disclosure of public records becomes mandatory three years after enactment of the bill. Public records generated, updated or released after enactment must be published online.
Examples of information that is required by law to be public but is not available online include:
- Reports disclosing lobbying activities (SF-LLLs) by government contractors and grantees made in connection with winning a grant.
- Filings by high-level government officials of their personal financial interests.
- Reports of when executive branch official travel is paid for by third-parties and not the government.