For example, the article cites a reduction in the number of “plain language” reviews of laws or court cases from 27 in 2014 to 11 last year. The number of reports produced by the LRB has also fallen in recent years from 22 in 2014, 16 in 2015, 5 in 2016, 1 in 2017, and none so far in 2018.
See the article for more information about the cuts as well as a bit of history of the LRB in Wisconsin.
Under a provision of the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this month, all non-confidential Congressional Research Service reports must be made publicly available online within 90 to 270 days.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. They produce analytical, non-partisan reports on topics of interest to members of Congress. Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative or public policy research.
Until now, there had been no comprehensive, official public online source that provided access to this government information. Under the new policy, approximately 3,000 non-classified reports will be released annually.
This post was authored by Jenny Zook, Reference and Instructional Services Librarian at the UW Law School Library.
SEC has adopted a final rule requiring public companies to include hyperlinks in their exhibit index, making it easier for investors to locate previously filed exhibits. According to the SEC, there was overwhelming support for this final rule. Previous to the new rule, to locate a filing, investors had to find the exhibit index to a registrants SEC filings, which, more often than not, was incorporated by reference. Embedding a link directly to the filing is a common sense amendment to the disclosure rules that will speed up the process for investors.
If you’ve ever tried looking for a CRS Report, you know that they can be very difficult to track down. A new site called everyCRSreport.com is hoping to make them more publicly accessible online.
Currently the site includes 8,260 CRS reports, although that number will change regularly. It’s unclear what date range is covered by the site, although it does say that “if you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at CRSReports.com may have them.”
[update 10/27: Per @danielschuman at Demand Progress “the @EveryCRSReport website has all the reports currently available to congress. They can go back to the 90s, but not usually.”]
If you’re not familiar with CRS Reports, they are reports issued by the Congressional Research Service which is a legislative branch agency housed inside the Library of Congress. These reports contain analytical, non-partisan information on topics of interest to members of Congress.
Although the reports are works of the United States Government and not subject to copyright protection, the federal government has, thus far, not made them publicly available. Numerous non profits and commercial vendors have been working to fill the gap.
According to the website, EveryCRSReport.com is a project of Demand Progress in collaboration with the Congressional Data Coalition — a bipartisan coalition founded by Demand Progress and the R Street Institute to promote open legislative information.
The Law Library of Congress has recently released a full collection of historical volumes of the Federal Register online. The collection begins with the first Federal Register in 1936 and contains all daily volumes through 1993.
Late last night, Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Finance passed a motion (motion #999) to the Wisconsin state budget that would exempt “deliberative materials” like legislative drafting records and legislative briefings from Wisconsin’s open records laws.
Included in the 24-page motion were five sections of proposed changes that would severely restrict access to the once-public records of the Legislature.
“Deliberative materials” would not be considered public records. Deliberative materials would include “communications, opinions, analyses, briefings, background information, recommendations, suggestions, drafts, correspondence about drafts, and notes, created or prepared in the process of reaching a decision concerning a policy or course of action or in the process of drafting a document or formulating an official communication.”
A legislator would have the right to refuse disclosure of a broad swath of communications and records.
All drafting files and records related to reference, drafting and research requests by the Legislative Reference Bureau would be confidential and closed to the public “at all times.”
No section of the state’s public records law that conflicts with a rule enacted by the Legislature could apply to a record.
The confidentiality requirements placed on nonpartisan legislative service agencies may not be used to prohibit an agency staff member from communicating with a staff member from another similar agency.
Drafting records are used frequently by lawyers, journalists, analysts, and by the public to gain insight into the process by which legislation is created, influenced, and passed. Restricting access to this information would fundamentally limit the ability to conduct legislative research in Wisconsin.
The provisions, which are slated to take effect retroactively on July 1, the day before the motion was introduced and the start of the state’s fiscal year, have received harsh criticism by both left and right wing commentators.
For more, watch this video by the MacIver Institute.
The budget now moves to the full Legislature, with the Assembly scheduled to take up the budget bill on Wednesday of next week and the Senate scheduled to take it up as soon as Tuesday.
In the face of withering criticism, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of the Legislature announced Saturday that a provision added to the state budget to gut the open records law “will be removed from the budget in its entirety.”
See more from the Capital Times on who was involved with the motion.
Recently, Congress.gov launched several email alert services that allow you to track federal legislative information.
First, the legislation alert allows you to track action on a particular bill. When viewing a bill in Congress.gov, click on the “Get alerts” link under the title to set up your alert.
Next, you can get an alert when a specific Member of Congress (from the current Congress) has either sponsored or cosponsored legislation. To set up this alert, go to the member’s page and select “Get alerts” from the menu at the far right.
Finally, you can also receive an alert when a new issue of the Congressional Record is available on Congress.gov. To set this up, click on “Get alerts” at the far right on the CR page.
For more information on setting up these alerts, see In Custodia Legis from the Law Librarians of Congress.
Eileen Snyder of the Wisconsin Historical Society has put together a useful post on the new session of the Wisconsin Legislature.
It includes information such as a list of state officers, salaries of state elected officials, a guide to the legislative process, and budget and informational papers. It also includes a link to the 2015-16 Wisconsin Legislator Briefing Book which provides background on policy areas, the budget process, legislative service agencies, and other information on Wisconsin government.
Legislative Explorer is a new tool to visually trace the progress bills and resolutions as they move through Congress. This tool help researchers observe large scale patterns and trends in congressional lawmaking without advanced methodological training.
At first view, it’s a little confusing, but this tutorial explains its value: