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April 23, 2015
Data Transparency News
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Rep. Hurt's proposal banning open data at the SEC is back under consideration in the House

The Coalition believes that Rep. Robert Hurt’s Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act may be considered by the House Financial Services Committee at a subcommittee hearing scheduled for April 29, 2015. Hurt reintroduced the proposal, which the House had previously passed as part of a larger package, on Tuesday. Its new designation is H.R. 1912. The Coalition has opposed Rep. Hurt’s regressive proposal in all of its iterations to date. Over the past two years, we have expressed our criticism for the proposal at length. For a more detailed perspective and a catalog of our opposition click here. In the meantime, here are the basics...

1. The Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act

Rep. Robert Hurt’s (R-VA) speciously dubbed Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act has been considered and failed in both the 113th and 114th Congresses as standalone legislation and bundled into larger Financial Services packages. The proposal, which is supported largely by the Biotech Industry Organization, would exempt over 60% of U.S. public companies from the obligation to file their financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) structured data format. If enacted, Rep. Hurt's proposal would be a major setback for data transparency in financial regulation.

2. Brought about by justified frustration at the SEC

The Coalition does not disagree with the motivation for the Small Company Disclosure Simplification Act. In 2009, the SEC took its first step towards an open data transformation by requiring public companies to submit their financial statements in the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) format. But the agency has indeed failed, so far, to make its XBRL reporting requirement work properly for investors, internal uses, and issuers. This has led to justified frustration from Congress.

3. Congress should direct the SEC to fix XBRL, not eliminate it for the majority of public companies

Recently the SEC has begun to resume its stalled transformation. In July, it took its first steps toward quality enforcement. Chair Mary Jo White has voiced her agency’s desire to keep collecting structured financial data from public companies–contrary to the proposal at hand. We just believe the right answer would be for Congress to fix structured data reporting at the SEC, not eliminate it for the majority of public companies.

The Hurt bill has aroused opposition in the Senate, so we believe its reintroduction in the House does not increase its chances of becoming law. Nevertheless, supporters of open data should express their views to Rep. Hurt's office and the House Financial Services Committee. 

Check out our infographic on the SEC's overdue transformation of corporate disclosure.
 

Data Coalition and GAO partner event: Changing the Culture for Open data

On April 22, the Data Transparency Coalition and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Government Data Sharing Community of Practice co-hosted panel discussions focusing on the cultural change necessary for government agencies to embrace open data.

Joah Iannotta of GAO (pictured above on the left) moderated our first panel which focused on success stories of open data cultural change from across the government and featured speakers from USDA's Recreation.gov, Department of the Interior, and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.
The second panel of the day was moderated by our own Hudson Hollister (far right) and explored future challenges facing open data cultural change. The panelists (from left to right): Rich Beutel, a government acquisition policy expert, Joel Gurin, president of the Center for Open Data Enterprise, and Jerry Johnston, Geospatial Information Officer at the Department of the Interior agreed that the federal government is starting to shift towards open data, but slow cultural change coupled with unintended legal constraints have hampered progress.

Our two panels skillfully hopscotched back and forth across different and overlapping subject domains -- spending, water, national parks, geospatial, patents, judicial, Census, and many more without our audience missing a beat. The only way to build a consensus in favor of transforming each of those domains is to connect them together through events like Changing the Culture for Open Data.
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Upcoming events:

DATA Act Summit & DATA Demo Day

June 9: DATA Demo Day on Capitol Hill
June 10: DATA Act Summit at Washington Convention Center
Bipartisan Coalition Launches Transitions in Governance 2016 Initiative to Devise Government Reform Agenda
 
NOAA Big Data Project announced by Secretary Pritzker
 
IRS Ordered to Make Non-Profit Form 990s Available In a Useful Electronic Format
 
A new report on patent data adds insight to an ongoing discussion of the best ways to ensure that patent information can be published as high quality, searchable open data.
 
Americans’ Views on Open Government Data 
A report released by the Pew Research Center this week shows that the majority of Americans are optimistic about the benefits of open government data.
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About Us

The Data Transparency Coalition advocates on behalf of the private sector and the public interest for the publication of government information as standardized, machine-readable data. Data transparency strengthens democratic accountability, enhances government management, reduces compliance costs, and stimulates innovation.
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