Tag Archives: advocacy

June 12: This week in data legislation

Writing on The Census Project blog, Terri Ann Lowenthal recounts the beating Census took in the House recently, when the Appropriations committee attached the dreaded Poe amendment and cut more than $200 million from the bureau’s budget request. On the Senate side, things look a slightly better for the Bureau, even if that isn’t saying much considering the House’s apparent view of the Census.

APDU Board member Steve Pierson lays out some of the concerns with the House’s action relative to the National Center for Education Statistics. A bill (HE 4366, “SETRA”) passed in May could affect the stature of the agency – one move is to ditch the presidential appointment of the NCES commissioner, transferring that authority to another already existing office (IES). It’s unclear what the Senate plans to do with their version of the SETRA bill.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission released a report that data brokers (private sector companies who collect massive amounts of big data) are operating without transparency.  That FTC report recommends that Congress enact legislation that requires the companies to disclose more information about themselves and the data they collect. According to a spokesperson at the Direct Marketing Assn, what the report doesn’t do is find actual harm to consumers.

In Vermont, a new law requires the state’s chief performance officer to oversee the collection of a variety of measures, such as median household income, the percent of adults who smoke, and the percent of the population living in poverty.

At the local level, New York City Council members passed a bill that would require the Department of Education to publish demographic and academic information about co-located schools. The required statistics would include breakdowns of each school by race and ethnicity, English language learners, students with special needs, and students eligible for free or reduced price lunch. According to the legislation, the academic data must include state exam scores. The Department of Education [note: assuming the story means the NY Dept of Ed] has expressed support for the law, as did the charter sector.

Finally, what does the new DATA Act mean? Find out through an APDU webinar on Weds June 25 (rescheduled from last month).

Is your group working on data-related legislation? Please send along any tips or stories to info@apdu.org.

Data takes center stage in Washington DC

It’s been a busy week in data-related issues in Washington DC:

The Census Project looks at where Census FY2015 funding levels stand after the House Appropriations Committee markup last week. Terri Ann Lowenthal has broken out some of the numbers. The revised budget goes to the full House for a vote on May 28.

On Wednesday, May 7th, the House approved the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366), which “will reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act and improve the federal research structure to better provide states with access to useful data that can help raise student achievement levels in the classroom”. Among other things, the bill specifically reauthorizes the Institute of Education Sciences, which includes the National Center for Education Statistics and three other centers.

On May 9th, President Obama enacted the nation’s first open data law, The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2014. The DATA Act requires federal agencies to publish their spending data in a standardized, machine-readable format that the public can access through USASpending.gov. APDU will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 28th, “What The New DATA Act Means for Data Users” as part of Public Data University’s Special Topics / 301 series.

On the same day as the DATA Act signing, the Administration issued its new US Open Data Action Plan, calling for agencies to solicit feedback from government data users to improve the quality of government data and prioritize its release to the public. Information Week examines the four actions aimed at advancing the usability of open government data. Outside DC, Nashville is latest city to join open data movement.

As cited in last week’s APDU Weekly, the White House released their report Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values. Here’s one take on reactions to the report and another take on why it matters.

Finally, the current draft of the Senate transportation bill “flat funds” the Bureau of Transportation Statistics through 2020. Back in March, APDU board member Steve Pierson from ASA took a look at the budget trends of the mid-size statistical agencies. BTS in particular has not seen a marked increase in the past decade.

This week in data advocacy

A number of bills and advocacy efforts related to public and open data have been in the news in the past week.

  • Three years in the making, some have called the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) the most significant open-government legislation since the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. The new law would require the federal government to automate, standardize, and publish its myriad financial management, procurement, and related data in electronic formats that can be easily accessed and analyzed by interested parties in the public and private sectors.
  • In Maryland, the new Council on Open Data was created by SB644 designed to make more of Maryland’s government data more available and searchable to everyone. The new law creates a 37-member council that includes all the cabinet secretaries and other departments of state government. It is headed by the secretary of Information Technology. The legislation with some amendments had the strong support of the O’Malley administration and good government organizations such as Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Sunlight Foundation.
  • The California State Senate is taking up legislation that would restrict how information gathered by automated license plate recognition systems is shared and sold, while at the same time making the data more accessible to law enforcement. Senate Bill 893 refers to the use of data generated by automated license plate readers and highlights the increasing use of cutting-edge technology to collect personal information.
  • Legislation proposed in Missouri would wall off the public from data collected by state agencies under the federal Animal Disease Traceability Program. “Transparency about the food we eat seems to be in the public interest. We would urge legislators to keep this information open,” writes the Joplin Globe in an editorial.
  • At the local level, New York City had formerly introduced a bill that would have pushed Ray Kelly’s police department one step closer to opening up crash data. That bill has been reintroduced by Council Member Brad Lander. But with new leadership, NYPD is dropping hints that it will release better public data soon. Advocates say Lander’s bill could use some upgrades to help the public get more out of NYPD’s crash data.

Public data making the rounds in the media

As the appropriations process gears up on Capitol Hill, government officials, advocates, and journalists are making the case for preserving public data.

APDU calling on Congress to restore and modernize BLS budget

APDU has learned that the Senate and House are developing appropriations proposals that must ready in the next few weeks. To that end, APDU will be coordinating outreach to both committees, as well as to key individual members of each, calling on the House and Senate to increase the total Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) budget request to $631.4 million.

This would include the following proposals:

  • (1) supporting president’s proposals to provide funding for annual Current Population Survey (CPS) supplements to better monitor labor market changes and adapt the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) to support the development of a supplemental poverty measure ($4.1 million)
  • (2) restoring the export price and quarterly census of employment and wages cuts resulting from sequestration and recent budget compromises ($9.3 M);
  • (3) restoring Current Employment Survey (CES) funding to 2010 levels to provide BLS with the resources to enhance data quality and reduce employer response burden by encouraging businesses to voluntary provide information through electronic data interchange ($7 M, based in part on FY 2011 budget proposal cut, page 30 — $5 M would restore the cut, plus $2 M to states to support quality control); and
  • (4) modernizing BLS programs to provide time series data for the Occupational Employment Survey as well as test ways to use big data to enhance data quality and industry/geographic detail for BLS programs ($5 M, based in part on FY 2011 budget proposal, page 16, first bullet under “Cost Model”).

This is $21.3 million above the President’s FY2015 request and would provide about $25.4 million in resources to restore and modernize BLS, which is $21.3 million above the President’s request.

We expect that outreach to Congress must happen by March 28. Watch for an alert and language to send your representative shortly. If you are interested in contributing to advocacy work, please contact us at info@apdu.org.

Revised 3-25-14

APDU Joins 100+ Orgs in Defense of ACS

Good news from the Hill: the move to re-introduce an unpopular bill in committee that would affect the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey has failed.

Late last week, word leaked that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) would present the bill for markup on Wednesday, March 12. Organized by The Census Project, APDU joined over 100 other organizations in a letter to the committee leadership urging the Census Bureau’s authorizing committee not to bring up the Poe bill, which would make ACS response voluntary, for a vote this week.

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APDU Signs on to Letter Concerning Missouri Legislation

The Association of Public Data Users (APDU) joined the Marketing Research Association (MRA) and the American Statistical Association (ASA) to express concern proposed legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives. A proposed bill by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R-158), H.B. 1485, could increase the cost of Missouri state government agencies’ research efforts and jeopardize the representativeness and reliability of that research. Continue reading