Open Government
Open Government
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Democrats, experts call on Supreme Court to let sunshine in

Supreme Court justices should be covered by a written code of conduct and should publicly disclose their own finances and those instances when they recuse themselves from cases.

That was the general view of several expert witnesses at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Friday.

"Our courts must be fair and impartial," said Democrat Hank Johnson of Georgia, who chaired the meeting of the panel that oversees the federal court system. "But also, our courts must appear to be fair and impartial."

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Congress

House committee proposes transparency enhancements

The committee tasked with recommending ways to improve the inner workings of Congress approved a first set of policy proposals, focused on increasing the transparency of the lawmaking process.

The five proposed reforms passed Thursday by the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress are intended to improve the public's access to congressional information. The recommendations would:

  • Standardize the format of legislative text, making it easier for the public to access and understand legislation.
  • Create a centralized home to track committee votes.
  • Update both the House and Senate lobbying disclosure systems.
  • Make it easier to track amendments to legislation.
  • Create a database showing which agencies and programs are due for reauthorization.

Democratic Chairman Derek Kilmer said he plans to introduce legislation to reflect the transparency-focused proposals, which the committee passed unanimously.

"Transparency in Congress promotes more accountability to our constituents, and that's a good thing," Kilmer and the Republican vice chairman, Tom Graves, said in a statement. "These bipartisan recommendations are just the first step towards making the legislative branch more effective and accessible for the American people."

Open Government

Legislators vote to restore some Texas government sunshine

A measure reviving the public's ability to review much of how Texas is spending taxpayer money has cleared the legislature and is expected to win the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Enactment of the bill will assure that information about contracts that state agencies (and municipal governments, boards and commissions) make with businesses are public records with only a few exceptions. State and local officials have been able to keep much of that information secret for the past four years, because the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that public records requests could be denied in cases where sunshine could give a contractor's competitors an advantage.

That court decision gained notoriety soon after, when the border city of McAllen refused to say how much it paid singer Enrique Iglesias to perform at a festival that lost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Efforts to codify contractor transparency failed in the legislature two years ago but were revived, the Houston Chronicle reported, after a coalition was formed by the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation and left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Open Government

Latest House probe of Trump is about his waiving ethics rules he set for his people

The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee is again challenging President Trump over his campaign promise to combat public corruption and "drain the swamp" in Washington.

With the president already refusing to cooperate in a score of investigations by congressional Democrats, a showdown that could precipitate a constitutional showdown or impeachment, this new spat's importance may well get overlooked. But the regulation of the revolving door between government and business is of prime concern to ethics watchdogs.

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