Open Government Prospects in 2014

As we look ahead through the new year, a number of major open government issues will almost certainly become the center of policy debates and offer opportunities for improving transparency. This article presents the top open government issues we believe are most likely to garner the most time and attention of Washington policymakers. And, since every year offers surprises, we also offer a quick list of the most likely "wild card" issues that may emerge in 2014.

read in full

Expiring Help for the Unemployed or Expiring Tax Breaks: What Will Congress Extend?

December was a tough month for those down on their luck. More than a million long-term unemployed workers, having already been out of work for at least six months, saw their unemployment insurance abruptly cut off. Just weeks before this happened, federal food assistance for children, seniors, and people with disabilities was reduced. Job growth was anemic, and the unemployment rate fell because many people simply stopped looking for work (and so moved from "unemployed" to "out of the labor market").

read in full

Rules to Watch (and Wait) for in 2014

Just before Thanksgiving, the White House quietly released the 2013 Unified Agenda, which contains information on a broad range of upcoming regulatory actions, as well as agencies’ regulatory plans detailing the most important significant regulatory and deregulatory actions they expect to propose or finalize during the coming year. On Jan. 7, agencies published in the Federal Register their regulatory flexibility agendas describing a subset of regulatory actions under development that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. While some important health and safety rules are slated to move forward, the Unified Agenda indicates that many long-awaited actions will not advance as proposed or final rules this year.

read in full

Austerity Politics: Automatic Spending Cuts, a Government Shutdown, Job Loss, and Record Corporate Profits

2013 opened with the economy poised on the edge of "the fiscal cliff," and on that cliff was a sign reading, "Manufactured in Washington D.C." How did we start the year on a ledge, land in a shutdown in October, and scramble to a mini-deal in December? Since it all goes back to the Budget Control Act passed in August of 2011, a short recap may be in order.

read in full

Standards and Safeguards in 2013

Agencies rolled out few health, safety, or environmental standards in the first quarter of 2013, despite hopes that President Obama would commit more attention to agencies' regulatory agendas after winning reelection. But in the spring, the gears began to move as the administration focused on implementing crucial public protections and the new director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Howard Shelanski, made good on his promise to cut the backlog of rules waiting for review at OIRA. With the gridlock on legislation in Congress, many are looking for the administration to be more active in moving rules and action through the executive branch.

read in full

Citizen Access to Information: A Rollercoaster in 2013

What a rollercoaster of a year it was for citizen access to public information. Early in the year, a flurry of activity around improving freedom of information requests took place but then slowed down. Likewise, we are being teased with the possibility of serious improvements in the accuracy of federal spending datasets. We thought we were going to get better disclosure of fracking chemicals on federal lands, but good rules failed to materialize. After 38 years, legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act has been introduced, but with preemption clauses, it could actually end up reducing protections. The information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to tough questions and pressure for better oversight of our national surveillance agencies, but to date no action has occurred. And the government shutdown shut down federal agency websites, leaving citizens in the dark. Here is our take on the biggest ups and downs in open government for 2013.

read in full

New Report Recommends Best Practices for Executive Agency Freedom of Information Act Regulations

Americans deserve easy access to public information. For that to happen, executive agencies need effective procedures for responding to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Although several agencies have adopted some good practices, most agency FOIA regulations are outdated and unfriendly to the public. To encourage agencies to improve their FOIA procedures, a goal under the president's 2nd National Action Plan on Open Government, the Center for Effective Government released a new report on Dec. 9, Best Practices for Agency Freedom of Information Act Regulations.

read in full

Best Practices for Agency Freedom of Information Act Regulations

Of the 100 agencies in the federal government subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), dozens of agencies have not yet updated their FOIA regulations to reflect requirements in the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The OPEN Government Act required federal agencies to better assist people who make requests for public information under FOIA – for instance, by providing individualized tracking numbers in order to check the status of a request. Despite additional direction from President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to improve FOIA processing, six years later, most agency regulations include few of the best practices described in this report.

read in full

The Corporate Tax Rate Debate: Lower Taxes on Corporate Profits Not Linked to Job Creation

The American corporate tax system is badly broken. Some corporations pay more than a third of their profits in federal income taxes, while other equally profitable firms pay nothing at all. On average, corporations pay just 12.6 percent of their profits in federal income taxes, according to a recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

read in full

Platinum-Plated Pensions

In the current budget debate, the loudest calls for Social Security cuts are coming from two lobby groups led by CEOs who will never have to worry about their own retirement security.

read in full