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Unemployment Insurance Cuts in the Latest Deal

February 15, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

It’s not official yet, but it appears that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are on the verge of striking a deal on extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits. While the payroll tax holiday would be continued in its current form under the deal, the policies governing extended unemployment insurance for the would change significantly. Under the deal, long-term unemployed workers in most states would see their maximum length of benefits restricted, and they may face new drug testing and job retraining requirements to continue receiving benefits. Here are the details of the the deal as it currently stands, according to an outline obtained by CNN:

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One of the things that became clear in Congress’ push to pass Hollywood’s web censorship bills is that powerful corporations and the federal government do not want the rule of law to apply on the internet. The attitude that our basic freedoms and legal protections are somehow not valid on the internet is partly just the kind of reaction you would expect from entrenched powers whenever new technologies emerge, but it’s also a response to the particular peer-to-peer features of the internet that threaten to make their key sources of power -- control of information flow -- less relevant.

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Last month’s flurry of Stop-PIPA & Stop-SOPA online protests were an apex of activity for OpenCongress. Not only was January 18th, 2012 the single-highest day of traffic on OC since our launch in February 2007, but also the stop-PIPA action was in many ways the height of user engagement with active legislation in the U.S. Congress. The huge “Internet blackout” event on January 18th was OC’s single largest day of traffic, with over 250,000 visits and more than half a million pageviews (and likely would have been much higher if we could afford more servers and cloud-scaling ability to handle the traffic rush).

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Senate Passes FAA Bill With Anti-Union Language

February 7, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 75-20, the Senate has given final passage to a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would make it tougher for transportation workers to unionize. Under the bill, the National Mediation Board -- the agency that manages labor issues for the railroad and airline industries -- would not be allowed to call for an union election unless at least 50 percent of the employees of a company sign authorization cards requesting an election.

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House Getting Creative With the Earmark Moratorium

February 6, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

House Republicans are starting to find ways around the earmark moratorium they voted for last year. The latest example, according to the New York Times, comes in the form of the 2012 Army Corps of Engineers budget. Instead of the $533 million worth of earmarks they included in 2010, the 2012 budget sets aside $507 in 26 slush funds, along withe a set of guidelines for making sure the money goes to Congress' favorite pet projects.

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Liberate OpenGovData Now

February 1, 2012 - by David Moore

It's 2012 - we don't have hover skateboards, and we don't have #opengov. We could have the latter, at least, in the here and now, benefiting every American, if the systemically corrupt U.S. Congress was capable of reforming itself (which it is currently, unfortunately, not). (Right, '80's movie art, w/ connotations of liberation by force and yet a certain datedness... it's past time.) 

I'm writing this on the train from NYC to D.C., en route to the Conference on Legislative Data & Transparency to be held Thursday, Feb. 2nd, 9am - 5pm ET - agenda here, webcast live here, micro-publishing updates here.

This shouldn't be a negotiation - rather, I'm here to call for liberation of public legislative data via bulk access and moving towards an open API for THOMAS. Then proceeding aggressively to API enhancements for Congressional offices to continually engage with constituent communications - for a living, breathing deliberative democracy - aided by open technology.

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The undue influence of corporate money in public policy is at the root of nearly all the major problems facing the U.S. right now, and in the wake of the Citizens United decision it's only going to get worse. That's why it was good to hear President Obama call out the "corrosive influence of money in politics" during his State of the Union speech. Unfortunately, his primary call to action doesn't even address the real issue.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

January 30, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

It's the week after the State of the Union, and while the Senate is moving forward with bipartisan legislation requested by the President during the speech, the House is continuing its highly-partisan, mostly-symbolic agenda.

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Congress Links - STOCK Act

January 30, 2012 - by David Moore

Congress Links for Monday, Jan. 30th. The Hill: "The Senate meets at 2 p.m. for speeches, and then at 4:30 p.m. starts work on the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which aims to prevent members of Congress from making trades based on non-public information." (At right: Sen. Gillibrand, Senate version sponsor.) The STOCK Act has 99% support from "MyOC" users - visit to the Money Trail for a list of organizations supporting S. 1903, including Common Cause. Click through for more background & links. 

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Congress Links: SOtU Reax

January 25, 2012 - by David Moore

Congress Links today rounds-up reactions to last night's State of the Union adddress. As usual, we lead with the powerfully lucid Ezra Klein of Wonkblog: "But what viewers of the State of the Union learned was that Obama has an agenda. An ambitious one, even. Whether they approve of it, and whether they approve of congressional Republicans obstructing it, remains to be seen." (At right, House Maj. Leader Rep. Boehner [R-OH], previous coverage on OC Blog.)

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Congress Links - SOtU Edition

January 24, 2012 - by David Moore

The U.S. House returns to gridlocked action in D.C. this week. The top story, of course, is (yesterday's) State of the Union address. Ezra Klein's must-read-e'ery-day Wonkblog on WaPo reminds us, "Last year, for instance, Obama exhorted Americans to win the future by investing in scientific research, clean energy and infrastructure. But as Glenn Kessler details, Obama's proposals languished in the divided Congress. Instead, Congress spent much of its time almost letting the government shut down, almost defaulting on the national debt, and almost letting the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance expire." More Congress Links to come today (Wed.).

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SOPA/PIPA Dead ...For Now.

January 20, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

Following a day of unprecedented online protest, the web censorship bills in Congress, SOPA and PIPA, have officially been tabled. “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act (PIPA)," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning.

SOPA in the House was put on hold as well. "It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products," said Judiciary Committee Chairman and SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith. The SOPA mark-up was scheduled to resume on Feb. 18th, but it has now officially been postponed indefinitely.

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PIPA Vote Delayed, Notable Win, Now Kill It Off

January 18, 2012 - by David Moore

Update 1-20-2012, 10am ET: Sen. Reid has officialy pulled the cloture vote on the PIPA net censorship bill that was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24th. Follow Ernesto Falcon for updates. Congrats to our new net-freedom sibling org. Fight For the Future & all our terrific allies in the American Censorship coalition.

While we savor this battle-win, keep in mind that net censorship should never have been a legitimate starting point - this terrible legislation was penned and pushed by Hollywood lobbyists & campaign donations, a perfectly egregious example of systemic corruption in the U.S. Congress - and that its supporters nearly succeeded in rushing PIPA / SOPA (the worst Internet legislation in history!) to a cloture vote - all this despite the largest online protest in history. Too close - too corrupt. To be clear, PIPA & SOPA are not dead, and we won't hold off on driving constituents to call their members' offices in opposition until they are past-doubt-dead.

Wednesday's #PIPA protest blew away OC's record for most web traffic in a day - over 256,000 visits, amazing. This post will be continually updated as we build-out our successful wiki community project: whip the Senate against PIPA. More info after the jump.

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New York Metro Area - Emergency #PIPA Protest Tomorrow

January 17, 2012 - by David Moore

For readers in the NYC metro area -- tomorrow, join me & over 12,000 others who have RSVP'd for this emergency NY Tech MeetUp protest of NY Senators Schumer & Gillibrand's office, in opposition to their continued co-sponorship of the #PIPA internet censorship bill. A diverse movement (tech entrepreneurs, non-profits, venture capitalists, independent media) is coming together in-person to attract public attention, protest the terrible, shoulda-been-non-starter PIPA legislation... and demand Sens. Schumer & Gillibrand remove their co-sponsorship immediately and convey to Sen. Reid that they'll be voting against PIPA on Jan. 24th when the Senate returns. If you're a New York state consituent, call and write your two senators to let them know you'll be attending the protest - and wherever you're located, use that link to hit up our wiki community project to whip the Senate against PIPA. 

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Six GOP Co-Sponsors of PIPA Ask Reid to Cancel Vote

January 13, 2012 - by Donny Shaw

In an incredible turn of events, six Republican Senators have asked Majority Leader Harry Reid not to hold a vote on PIPA, the Senate version of SOPA. They write, "Prior to committee action, some members expressed substantive concerns about the bill, and there was a commitment to resolve them prior to floor consideration. That resolution has not yet occurred."

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