A House hearing held yesterday on data issues — including recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking — highlighted tensions between data and privacy concerns that may be holding up legislation (HR 4174 and S 2046) that would implement some of the commission’s recommendations.
The legislation has been framed as a “downpayment” on the recommendations, which were released in September. The House passed its version of the bill relatively soon afterward, on November 15, probably owing to the strength of its principal House sponsor, Speaker Paul Ryan. The Senate has not yet moved its version of the bill.
A good summary of the legislation is available from the Bipartisan Policy Center, which has been taking an active supporting role. The bill omits what was probably the commission’s central recommendation, however — the creation of a National Secure Data Service that would act as a liaison for researchers seeking access to federally-held administrative data sets.
An Education Week story on the bill suggested that it may be getting held up for the same reasons that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the primary federal education data privacy law, has not been reauthorized. Those disagreements may also be holding up separate legislation that would reauthorize IES, the research agency at the Department of Education that houses the What Works Clearinghouse. So the evidence commission’s bill is not alone.
The commission stressed the importance of privacy concerns in its recommendations last fall. They drew support from some data privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center at a September 7 roll out event. The organization also issued a statement on January 29, in advance of the House hearing.
Will the Senate pass the evidence commission’s bill? It is difficult to know. The upper chamber tends to move bills like this more quietly, often by consensus and voice vote. It is hard to know in advance when or if that might happen. (And this assumes a hold has not been — or will not be — put on it by an undisclosed senator, which happens from time to time).
A video of yesterday’s hearing, held by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is below. The witness list and written testimony are here.
- Evidence Commission’s Proposed Data Service May Be Built in Stages (September 13, 2017)
- Congress Expected to Act on Evidence Commission Recommendations (September 7, 2017)