Public Accountability in Public-Private Partnerships

The nonprofit group In The Public Interest (ITPI) released a white paper last week outlining what state and local governments should do when considering using public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects like roads. For anyone interested in maintaining democratic control of public structures as well as getting a good deal for the public, ITPI’s paper is a great starting point for designing and modifying laws and policies to achieve those goals.

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Long Overdue: Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contractor Employees

In advance of his State of the Union speech tonight, the White House announced President Barack Obama will sign an executive order – which does not require congressional approval – to raise the wage floor to $10.10 for the lowest paid workers at companies that work on new federal government contracts.

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Oversight Board Calls for Greater Transparency of Telephone Surveillance

Today, the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board released its report examining the bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the operation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The NSA program has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The oversight board’s report is sharply critical of the program and calls for greater transparency of surveillance policies and the surveillance court.

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President Promises Modest Steps toward Surveillance Transparency

In a widely anticipated speech today, President Obama laid out his position on reforming surveillance activities in the wake of disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Today’s announcements outlined modest steps to better protect privacy and bring greater transparency to the U.S. government’s surveillance activities, but more remains to be done.

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Medicare Spending Data May Be Publicly Available Under New Policy

On Jan. 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new policy that could bring greater transparency to Medicare, one of the largest programs in the federal government. CMS revoked its long-standing policy not to release publicly any information about Medicare’s payments to doctors. Under the new policy, the agency will evaluate requests for such information on a case-by-case basis. Although the impact of the change is not yet clear, it creates an opportunity for a welcome step forward for data transparency and open government.

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Groups Call on President to Keep Campaign Promise and Require GMO Labeling

The use of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) has increased enormously over the last decade but still lacks any labeling requirement or significant government oversight. Today, more than 200 organizations and businesses, including the Center for Effective Government, urged President Barack Obama to address this gap and require labeling of GMOs.

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Key Transparency Fund Survives in Spending Bill

The House and Senate appropriations committees today released a new spending bill which contained good news for a key fund for government transparency programs. The Electronic Government Fund (E-Gov Fund) will receive a slight boost in funding from recent years, while still falling short of the administration’s funding request.

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Planning Ahead to Keep Government Information Online

During the October 2013 federal government shutdown, several important public information sources were shuttered, which weakened government transparency during that time. But – short of averting the shutdown itself – could anything have been done differently?

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Fracking Law Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned parts of a controversial 2012 state law, called Act 13, which allowed gas companies to drill anywhere in the state without regard to local zoning laws. The Court’s decision upholds the ability of local governments to establish quality-of-life protections their constituencies want.

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Administration Pledges, Again, to Update Nine-Year-Old Website Policy

Attentive readers of the administration’s 2nd Open Government National Action Plan will notice a familiar commitment related to reforming government websites.

Here’s the administration’s first plan, from September 2011:

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