House passes OPEN Act to improve public access to government data

Orange neon sign saying "OPEN"

The House of Representatives passed the OPEN Government Data Act on Nov. 15, 2017, as part of the bipartisan Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act.

On Wednesday, November 15, the House of Representatives passed ALA-supported legislation to improve public access to government data. The Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act was included as part of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174), which the House passed by voice vote. Passage of the bill represents a victory for library advocates, who have supported the legislation since it was first introduced last year.

The OPEN Government Data Act would make more government data freely available online, in machine-readable formats, and discoverable through a federal data catalog. The legislation would codify and build upon then-President Obama’s 2013 executive order. ALA President Jim Neal responded to passage of the bill by saying,

ALA applauds the House’s passage of the OPEN Government Data Act today. This bill will make it easier for libraries to help businesses, researchers and students find and use valuable data that makes American innovation and economic growth possible. The strong bipartisan support for this legislation shows access to information is a value we can all agree on.

With this vote, both the House and the Senate have now passed the OPEN Government Data Act, albeit in different forms. In September, the Senate passed the OPEN bill as an attachment to the annual defense bill, but the provision was later removed in conference with the House. This shows that the Senate supports the fundamental concepts of the OPEN bill – now the question is whether the Senate will agree to the particular details of H.R. 4174 (which also contains new provisions that will require negotiation).

ALA hopes that Congress will soon reach agreement to send the OPEN Government Data Act to the President’s desk so that taxpayers can make better use of these valuable public assets. ALA thanks House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Ben Sasse (R-NE), for their leadership in unlocking data that will unleash innovation.

 

About Gavin Baker

Gavin Baker is an assistant director of Government Relations. He advocates for library priorities on government information and transparency issues. Previously, he worked at California Common Cause, the Center for Effective Government / OMB Watch and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. Gavin earned his M.S. in library and information studies from Florida State University and his B.A. in political science from the University of Florida.

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