House adopts transparency rules

The House passed a rules package Jan. 5 that includes several transparency provisions for legislation.

The new Republican-led House has approved rules changes that create a new requirement for proposed legislation to be distributed to House members at least three calendar days in advance of a vote.

The rules package (House Resolution 5) was passed Jan. 5 on a party-line vote of 240-191.

Advocates for transparency said the new rules are helpful even though they do not go as far as anticipated.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders had previously said all proposed bills should be published online and available to the public 72 hours before a vote.


Related story:

House to vote on new transparency rules


Under the approved rules change, unreported legislation must instead be made available to House members at least three calendar days before a vote.

John Wonderlich, policy director at the Sunlight Foundation, said the modification is likely to provide almost as much transparency as the original language.

“It certainly is going to increase transparency,” Wonderlich said. “It does not say the bills will go online for the public, but if the bills go to the minority members for three days, it is hard to imagine they would not be placed online.”

House members routinely adopt new rules when convening every two years.

The rules package also allows lawmakers to bring electronic devices on the House floor, as long as their use doesn't impair decorum.

Other transparency changes include:

  • The House Administration Committee will set standards for how documents are made available online.
  • House committees must provide a week’s electronic notice to the public before hearings and three days' notice before meetings.
  • House committees must make legislation publicly available in electronic form at least 24 hours before being written up in final form during a committee markup meeting.
  • House committees must post all recorded votes online. Amendments adopted in committee must now be posted online within 24 hours.
  • House committees must broadcast their proceedings "to the maximum extent practicable."
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