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How a Good Government Bill Becomes a Law

PopVox – “On Thursday, the House of Representatives did something unusual: it passed a small, bipartisan bill with a substantive and positive impact on policy. The PRESS Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Kevin Kiley [R, CA], Jamie Raskin [D, MD], and eighteen others, is a reporter shield law. The District of Columbia and every state except Wyoming provide a statutory protection or court-recognized shield for journalists. This bill, like the ones in the states, prohibits prosecutors from forcing journalists and their IT providers to disclose information about their sources except when doing so would prevent terrorism or imminent violence. Basically, think of it as a clergy or attorney-client privilege, but for reporters talking to their sources — an entirely different form of confession. The purpose is to allow journalists to report the news without fear the government will go after them for doing their jobs. Going after the press for “leaks” is a time-honored way of distracting from the substance of the reporting. This wasn’t the first go-round for the legislation. The predecessor Free Flow of Information Act was introduced in 2009 and co-sponsored by then Rep. Mike Pence [R, IN]. (Watch him testify in favor of it before the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The bill has been reintroduced in each Congress and has a Senate companion measure co-sponsored by Sens. Wyden [D, OR] and Lee [R, UT], but faced a block by Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR]. This example of the ability of any senator to block small legislation that the majority leader is unwilling to place on the floor prompted me to think about the success rate for government transparency and accountability legislation since, say, 2010. With the help of friends who work at opengov organizations, I compiled a list of open and accountable government legislation over the last fourteen years. This is far from a full accounting: It misses bespoke legislation affecting a particular agency and it ignores the many policies put into effect through appropriations committee report language.”

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