E-gov bill heads to House

The Senate unanimously passed a bill June 27 to provide $345 million for e-government initiatives during the next four years. But its future is in limbo as it heads to the House.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) had bipartisan support in the Senate as well as the support of the Bush administration, which helped put together its provisions.

"Today we come a step closer to achieving the important goal of providing Americans the same 24/7 access to government information and services that is now available to them from the private sector," Lieberman said.

But timing may be the bill's downfall this year. With Congress laboring to develop a Homeland Security Department and deal with pressing budget issues, an e-government bill may never get on the House's agenda, according to those close to the process.

"It is a solid piece of legislation that Sen. Lieberman and his staff has crafted," said Alan Balutis, executive director of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. "But Congress and the House already have a relatively full plate...and it may be hard to squeeze in consideration of this."

Dave Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), said, "The Senate deserves kudos for putting together a comprehensive structure for management of information technology." However, Marin said that Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, is focusing on the Homeland Security Department and the e-government bill would have to stand in line after that.

Nevertheless, Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Enterprise Solutions Division at the Information Technology Association of America, said the signs were good for the bill's future.

"When a bill passes unanimously, it bodes well for passage in the House as well. It sounds like they may be able to work something out," Grkavac said.

The legislation, which replaced an e-government bill that Lieberman sponsored last year, strengthens public access and includes new privacy protections. It also reauthorizes the Government Information Security Reform Act and makes it permanent.

The administration had opposed one of the bill's major components — the appointment of a federal chief information officer. But a compromise supported by the administration calls for an administrator within a new Office of Electronic Government at the Office of Management and Budget to oversee e-government initiatives and related projects.

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