Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Free Information, At Least for Now

Don't know if Congress will button this up any time soon. But, for now, anyone can have a look at what your reps read before they make a vote. No doubt, the Reps don't read the whole bill and may actually only skim over many of these pamplets.

A Washington research group has created a Web site where the public can read, submit and download the difficult-to-find public policy briefs members of Congress use to get up to speed on issues.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has created an online database of Congressional Research Service reports that anyone with an Internet connection can now tap free of charge.

The often-coveted but elusive reports are produced by CRS, a public policy research arm of Congress. CRS, which boasts hundreds of analysts and a $100 million budget, churns out hundreds of briefs each year on a wide range of topics. It recently issued one, for example, called "U.S. Treatment of Prisoners in Iraq: Selected Legal Issues." Another was titled, "Gasoline Prices: Policies and Proposals." A third was "Immigration: Policy Considerations Related to Guest Worker Programs."

The reports have long been praised as nonpartisan, concise and readable. But they are reserved for members of Congress, committees and their staffs. A member of the public can get one generally only if a lawmaker chooses to release it.

No comments: