Lawmakers look to modernize U.S. Code

A bipartisan bill would digitally encode U.S. law with a statutory history.

Congress Icon/Shutterstock
 

Two congressmen want to give the official record of U.S. laws a 21st century makeover.

Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Dave Brat (R-Va.) have reintroduced the Statutes at Large Modernization Act, a legislation reform bill that would make all federal laws ever passed available and publicly searchable on Congress.gov in an open, non-proprietary data format.

Currently, "if you want to go through and look up individual laws, you would have to pull them from each individual Congress" in which they were passed, Data Coalition Policy Director Christian Hoehner told FCW. "That's a lot of work."

The U.S. Code, the collection of the country's active laws, presently arranges laws by subject matter and is electronically searchable. However, it "doesn't capture statutes in the contexts by which they passed Congress," Hoehner explained. This means wholesale repeal measures, for example, are in the Statutes at Large but not in the U.S. Code and not electronically searchable.

Moulton and Brat's bill would list all federal statutes online in an electronically searchable format, as they were originally passed by Congress. This entails the inclusion of legislative aspects that are not usually found in the U.S. Code, such as repealed laws, their pre-amended language, private laws and annual appropriations or infrastructure projects.

Hoehner said the bill would create a complete "history of how U.S. law has changed throughout time."

Under this year's version, the Government Publishing Office would take the lead role to digitize the record. This is the biggest change from last year, when the National Archives and Records Administration headed the effort.

The bill specifically names -- among other public and private entities -- the Library of Congress, the Legislative Counsel of the Senate and the Law Revision Counsel as groups for GPO to consult in digitizing the historical record.

The bill includes an appropriations authorization of $5 million annually between fiscal years 2018 and 2022 to fund the modernization project.

The push to increase legislative transparency has received bipartisan support, as well as the public backing of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Last June at the 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference, Ryan endorsed "publishing all legislative measures in a standard format."

"That means enrolled measures, public laws, and statutes at large," he said. "We want this data to be as accessible as possible throughout the legislative cycle."

Separately, Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) reintroduced the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act on March 29.

The bill would codify President Barack Obama's 2013 executive order to require federal agencies to publish their information to Data.gov in a non-proprietary, machine-readable format. It would also standardize open-data definitions, map federal datasets and ensure that CIOs have the authority to improve dataset quality.

Last Congress, the open government bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent in December after receiving a cost estimate of zero from the Congressional Budget Office. However, the bill never received a full House vote.

At a recent House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, members from both sides of the aisle expressed support for the measure.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.