E-gov bill progresses

The Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to provide $345 million for e-government initiatives during the next four years. But the bill's future in the House is unclear.

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.

"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 when the bill passed June 27.

But timing may be the bill's downfall. With Congress working overtime to develop a Homeland Security Department and deal with pressing budget issues, an e-government bill may never get on the House's agenda.

"It may be hard to squeeze in consideration of this," said Alan Balutis, executive director of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils.

Others are more optimistic. "When a bill passes unanimously, it bodes well for passage in the House as well," said Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president at the Information Technology Association of America.

The legislation, which replaced a bill 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 the appointment of a federal chief information officer. But a compromise 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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