Legis* Research Team: Goals and Preliminary Findings

The Legis* Research Team monitors the intersection of archives issues and legislative resources and concerns, legislative bills, and individual legislators. This post, part of our Research Post series, was written by Rachel Mandell, Mark Prindiville, Ashley Levine, Dina Mazina, and Laurel Bowen.

Who is the Legis* Research Team?

Team coordinator: Rachel Mandell, USC Digital Library and I&A Chair

Team members: Laurel Bowen, Georgia State University; Katharina Hering, Georgetown Law Library; Lindsay Hiltunen, Michigan Technological University; Ashley Levine, Artifex Press; Dina Mazina, US Senate Committee on Finance; andMark Prindiville, Walter P. Reuther Library

What does the Legis* Research Team do?

The Backstory: For those of you who are familiar with the Issues and Advocacy Legislator Research Team of the past, the current configuration is somewhat different. We are taking a different approach and consider this very much a beta structure or a work in progress, if you will. We decided that a revamp was necessary because as we began to reflect on our goals for this team,  I&A vice-chair, Courtney Dean, and I realized that the information collected by Legislator Research Teams in the past have had no direct uses or action items associated with the data. This year, we hope to change that!
Goals: In recent months, we have been in conversation with the Committee on Public Policy (CoPP) about working towards the goal of contacting legislators and potentially engaging in on the ground advocacy work at SAA 2018 in Washington, D.C.. Towards that end, and also towards the end of collecting data for a purpose, we would like the Legislator/Legislative Research Team to try something different.

What does the Legis* Research Team do?

The Task: Legis*: Choose and Monitor (yes, that is a Boolean search/truncation joke)

Everyone on the current team has chosen up to 3 items to monitor. The idea is to explore topics of interest and, in doing so,  see more clear goals/uses emerge from the data. The categories are legislation, legislators, and legislative resources. We will cover topics and people qho have influence and affect archives, funding, social justice, data security and surveillance, labor, etc. No topic is too small or too big; given the rather limited time commitment for this research team, extensive research is not expected. Instead, we seek to have and share a general overview of what’s happening in legislative branches, what resources are out there, what legislation is being discussed, and who is taking the lead on such legislation.

What’s included in your research?

So far the topics chosen are as follows:

Legislation:

  • H.R. 2884: Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act of 2017
  • H.R. 3923: Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4382: Free Flow of Information Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4271: To blog the implementation of certain presidential actions that restrict individuals from certain countries from entering the United States.
  • H.R. 4081: Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2017

Legislators:

  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Hank Johnson (D-GA)
  • Gary Peters (D-MI)
  • Joe Crowley (D-NY)
  • Michael Turner (R-OH)
  • Darrell Issa (R-CA)
  • Mike Quigley (D-IL)
  • Tom Cotton (R-AR)
  • Jamie Raskin (D- MD)
  • David Cicilline (D-RI)

Resources:

  • National Coalition for History, Congressional History Caucus
  • The Hill
  • National Archives Center for Legislative Archives
  • Democracy Now!
  • Congress.gov
  • Senate Committees
  • Senate Legislation and Records
  • Congressional Transparency Caucus
  • Data Transparency Coalition

This year promises to be an interesting year in our legislative branch of government and the I&A Legis* Team will be there to monitor. We look forward to reporting back with with more information as the year progresses!

Preliminary update from Mark Prindiville: 

The Hill

  • Founded in 1994, due to the success of Roll Call, a newspaper and website that reports on legislative and political maneuverings in the Capitol.
  • Can be argued that The Hill is the American equivalent to the United Kingdom’s BBC News or The Guardian.
  • The Hill also operates through its website and has six blogs dealing with politics and legislation.
  • Has a surprisingly adamant social media presence, though it does not seem to have the same positive feedback in regards to its phone/tablet application.
    • If one follows The Hill on sites like Facebook, they post stories and breaking news at an astounding rate.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich)

  • Born December 1, 1958. Served on the Rochester Hills City Council from 1991-1993. Member of MI Senate from 1995-2002. Commissioner of Michigan Lottery from 2003-2007. Member of U.S. House of Representatives (MI-9) from 2009-2013, and again (MI-14) from 2013-2015. Elected to US Senate in 2015, succeeding Carl Levin.
  • Voted for the Recovery Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (not passed), the Paycheck Fairness Act (not passed), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the DREAM Act
  • As of 2010, has a “D” rating from the NRA; 2016’s Orlando shooting prompted Peters to participate in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster
  • In 2017, voted “Yea” on allowing Ajit Pai to become Chairman of FCC; however, Sen. Peters has come out against the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality, including voting in favor to overrule the FCC repeal, along with fellow Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow
Preliminary update from Ashley Levine:

I have elected to monitor three resources to explore how the American media and government document the undocumented, respectively. These include the TV, radio, and internet news program Democracy Now!; legislator Tom Cotton (R-AR); and House bill H.R. 3923, Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017.

My preliminary findings suggest failures of government accountability in documenting abuse of undocumented persons by government agencies, e.g. U.S. Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE), amid simultaneous efforts to bolster aggressive immigration enforcement policies. I aim to unpack the meaning of “government transparency” related to policy affecting undocumented persons, and simultaneously assess the effectiveness of the media in presenting truthful, documentary evidence on immigration matters.

Preliminary update from Dina Mazina:

I’ll be following issues of government transparency, specifically the Congressional Transparency Caucus and their two chairmen, Mike Quigley (D-IL)  and Darrell Issa (R-CA).

In December, Rep. Quigley introduced the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which would establish a central repository accessible to congressional staffs and the general public of federal agency non-confidential published reports. Recently, the bill passed out of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A companion bill is being led in the Senate by Senators Portman and Klobuchar.

Preliminary update from Laurel Bowen: 

I’m monitoring Michael Turner (R-OH), Joe Crowley (D-NY), and my own representative Hank Johnson (D-GA).  I’m familiar with Michael Turner as a successful advocate of legislation that promotes historic preservation, a field that often employs archivists.  I’ll be interested to find out if Joe Crowley and Hank Johnson, both representing urban areas, are advocates for cultural activities (libraries, archives, museums).  

In researching via Congress.gov I discovered (accidently) that Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has introduced H.R. 1376, the Electronic Message Preservation Act of 2017, which requires the U.S. Archivist to promulgate regulations governing federal agency preservation of electronic messages.

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