Roll Call: Baird Seeks More Bill Transparency (6/26/07)

A resolution introduced last week by Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) would amend House rules to require that legislation and conference reports be made available online 72 hours before being considered by the chamber.

Despite the obstacles, Democratic leaders should approve Baird’s legislation, said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation…adding that putting legislation and conference reports online for a few days is “kind of a no-brainer.”

Roll Call
“Baird Seeks More Bill Transparency” June 26, 2007

“Most people spend a whole lot more time buying a house than we get to read a bill,” Baird noted.

As of Monday afternoon, a bipartisan group of eight Members had signed on as co-sponsors, including Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) and Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.).

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But Baird admitted that his measure faces an uphill battle, as Members on both sides of the aisle might be unwilling to give up flexibility in scheduling floor matters.

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Despite the obstacles, Democratic leaders should approve Baird’s legislation, said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which works to make more government documents available online.

When the Democrats took the reins, they promised to increase public availability of Congressional documents, Miller recalled, adding that putting legislation and conference reports online for a few days is “kind of a no-brainer.”

“To me, it is a necessary piece of Congressional transparency,” she said.

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Baird also said his bill would prove helpful to the public, giving interest groups, journalists and average Americans the means and time to carefully analyze legislation.

And Baird added that he is concerned about mission creep at the end of the year, when Members are in a rush to get back to their districts.

“That’s when the problems can arise,” he said.

Even if the bill does not get through Congress, Baird said he is hopeful “that the leadership would be able to follow the spirit of the bill.”

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“I think it has the potential for true popular support,” Miller said of the bill. “I can’t imagine a single person in the United States who wouldn’t support a requirement that gives Members of Congress more time to review legislation.”

(emphasis added.)