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:
The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has created a research bulletin providing an overview of the acts and joint resolutions of the 2013-2014 Wisconsin Legislative Session.
Legislation is organized by topic with acts described under the appropriate subject heading or headings.
In the most recent attempt to give CCAP (Wisconsin’s online record system for circuit courts) a facelift, a new bill is being considered by the legislature. This time, the bill was introduced by Republican senator Glenn Grothman and Republican representative Mary Czaja and has initially found some support in both the Assembly and Senate.
If the bill passes, the State Court’s office would be required to remove any information about felony cases on CCAP within 120 days of receiving notice that the charges were dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty. The same goes for civil forfeiture cases, except the window is reduced to 90 days.
As always, any legislation that attempts to remove information from CCAP may run into resistance. Previous CCAP legislation has lost support in the face of protests that range from land lords to law enforcement that support CCAP in it’s current incarnation and would prefer that no information is removed.
It remains to be seen if this most recent bill will gain further traction. If you’d like to read the full text of the bill, click here.
Earlier this week, a new chapter in the ongoing debate about how to update or change CCAP was written. A bill was introduced that would limit access to civil case information after money judgments have been satisfied and eight years have passed to the Assembly. Two Republican representatives introduced the bill, and it has bipartisan support in the Senate. It would seem seem that the bill may have a better chance of passing than many CCAP legislation predecessors.
CCAP legislation is often introduced, but changes to the database are rare. Democratic Senator Lena Taylor and Representative Evan Goyke introduced a bill in late July of this year that would allow persons to wipe away their records if they were wrongfully convicted. A second CCAP database was proposed for attorneys and others that would have kept all the information intact, but was not viewable by the public. That bill was strongly opposed by a variety of people, ranging from journalists to landlord unions.
The newest bill may finally change CCAP after a year of attempts. For further information, read the full text of the bill from November 22.