Information, and access to it, Fundamentals for 21st Century Government

The Post notes the 70th birthday of the Federal Register.

Of particular interest to me, is the section discussing how Justice Brandeis may have spurred creation of the Register:

Legal experts and historians who have studied the genesis of the register, modeled after England’s Rules Publication Act of 1893, credit Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for pulling the proper political levers to make it a reality.

He was reacting to two things: the federal government’s dismal central recordkeeping system (there wasn’t any) and a stunning increase in regulation generated by New Deal programs. Brandeis worried about the “bigness” of government and the need to tell the public what government was doing.

The article goes on to describe how this concern was further heightened when Justice Brandeis reviewed a case against Standard Oil for allegedly violating a regulation — which didnt’ exist at the time of the alleged violation.  Justice Brandeis elaborated in a piece written for the Harvard Law Review entitled Government Ignorance of the Law — a Plea for Better Publication of Executive Legislation.

So, the Federal Register grew as an instrument to tell the public what was going on in that huge bureaucracy.  Now, you ask, how do I know what is going on in state government?

We have something called the Georgia Register.  Unfortunately, most agencies are not complying with the law, as was pointed out in testimony for HB 1307, a bill designed to force agencies to publish their documents online and thus save money (BTW, the bill is stuck in House Rules Committee).  And, that is a problem, especially in this century. 

—– 

As a sidebar — go to www.firstgovsearch.gov and in the search box type “Government Ignorance Law” — you will see the biography of George Bush as the second item on the list.

 Another sidebar — Harvard Law Review is totally open to public access.  Kewl.

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