Measure would require agencies to put all public records online

Bills would require executive branch agencies to make public records searchable on the Internet

Federal executive branch agencies would have to make all public records permanently available on the Internet free of charge under a bill in the Senate. Similar legislation was introduced in the House in March.

Agencies would also have to publish on the Internet a comprehensive, searchable list of all the records it makes publicly available. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on May 6.

The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget’s e-government administrator to develop regulations to ensure agencies make the records available. The rules would determine how agencies should publish the records and procedures through which agencies can object to putting public records on the Internet.

For independent regulatory bodies, the rules would be set by a chief information officer or another official picked by the head of that organization.

The legislation would allow for agencies, on a case-by-case basis, to try to get exceptions from the requirements for records they say shouldn’t be published on the Internet. If an exception is granted, a redacted document would be made available, and, in general, a list of records not released would also be made available on the Internet.

The bill would also establish an advisory committee to issue non-binding governmentwide guidelines on making public information available on the Internet, as well as to hold hearings and issue recommendations to Congress. 

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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