Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) today reintroduced legislation (H.R. 1831 / S. 991) that would establish a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress and the president on how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures.
“If we want to make government more effective, we need to know what works,” said Ryan. “Too often, Washington rewards effort instead of results, and this commission will help us change the focus.”
“I am proud to stand with Representative Ryan to reintroduce this bill and I am looking forward to working with him and our colleagues in the House and Senate to get this done as soon as possible,” said Murray.
The bills will likely be referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs respectively.
According to a press statement:
- Commission Established: The bill establishes a “Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.” The Commission is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.
- Clearinghouse for Program and Survey Data: In the course of its review, the Commission is specifically required to evaluate the merits of and provide guidance for creating a “clearinghouse” for program and survey data. The clearinghouse would make available and facilitate the merging of datasets that are valuable in evaluating program effectiveness and informing domestic policymaking.
- Privacy Rights: The Commission would also study how best to protect the privacy rights of people who interact with federal agencies and ensure confidentiality.
- Commission Membership: The Commission is comprised of 15 members representing an array of disciplines relevant to program evaluation and data management, including economics, statistics, and data security. The Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate, and Speaker and Minority Leader in the House are authorized to appoint 3 members each, as is the President.
- Federal Agency Assistance: The bill requires several agencies to provide assistance to the Commission including OMB, Census, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Justice.
- Staff: The Commission is authorized to hire a Director (appointed by the Commission chair with the concurrence of the co-chair) and staff. The bill authorizes several federal agencies to provide up to a total of $3 million in funds to carry out the activities of the Commission.
- Findings Due in 15 Months: The Commission’s findings and recommendations are due to Congress 15 months after the Commission reaches 8 members—a simple majority. The Commission ends 18 months after the date of enactment.
The bill text is here.
A similar set of bills was introduced in the House and Senate late last year (H.R. 5754 / S. 2952), but no action was taken before Congress adjourned. The only reported difference is that this year’s legislation does not direct the Census Bureau to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration to run the commission. The commission will be housed at the Census Bureau instead.
- Federal News Radio, Interview with Robert Shea: Congress’s Data Plan Could Save Big Money (April 22, 2015)