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House Again Passes DATA Act

Transparency advocates praise the legislation, but states have questions about its costs.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the DATA Act this week in a move advocates say will help promote transparency of federal spending data.

A version of the legislation remains pending in the Senate, where earlier this month, it was unanimously reported out of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"It will create the opportunity for government to be more efficient, more effective, and more transparent," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. "The American people deserve real accountability of how their taxpayer dollars are spent, now, more than ever."

The House also passed a version of the legislation in 2012, but it remained stuck in a Senate committee and never received a vote.

The legislation requires recipients of federal funds, including state and local grantees, to regularly report how they're using the money, and it would create a website designed to make federal spending data more searchable.

The move is largely seen as a way to expand the transparency requirements that came with the stimulus more broadly across other types of federal spending.

Transparency advocates like the Sunlight Foundation have emphatically praised the legislation.

State and local government groups, however, have been skeptical of the legislation in the past, citing the increased resources they'd need in order to handle expanded reporting requirements.

Jeff Hurley, a policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, says the organization hasn't taken an official stance on the legislation but has concerns that it could effectively be an unfunded mandate, since states are unlikely to receive additional funding to comply with expanded reporting rules.

That's all the more troubling, Hurley says, since the legislation comes at a time when states are experiencing the loss of federal funds through sequestration and other cuts.

Communications manager for the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute and former Governing staff writer
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