Senate approves House e-gov bill

The Senate passed e-government legislation by unanimous consent Nov. 15, following the House, which passed the legislation earlier in the day.

Legislators expect the bill to be signed by President Bush, according to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Both House and Senate approved the Electronic Government Act, H.R. 2458, which originated in the House. The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, and co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy.

"Congressional passage of this legislation represents the culmination of years of work," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "As a result, the government will be taking full advantage of the Internet and other information technologies to maximize efficiency and provide the public with seamless, secure online information and services."

The Electronic Government Act represents a bipartisan agreement among Democrats, Republicans and the Bush administration, according to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Lieberman and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., sponsored the Senate version of the bill, S. 803, which had passed the Senate in July. That bill had called for a Senate-confirmed leader of a new Office of E-government within the Office of Management and Budget. The administration had opposed making the position Senate-confirmed.

H.R. 2458 calls for creation of an OMB Office of Electronic Government headed by an administrator appointed by the president. The administrator will implement e-government initiatives and oversee agencies' compliance with relevant statutes. It authorizes an e-government fund for interagency projects. The bill authorizes $45 million for the fund in fiscal 2003, and increases the fund to $150 million in fiscal 2006.

The bill also:

*Authorizes $15 million in fiscal 2003 for improvements to the federal Internet portal, Firstgov.gov, which provides online government information and services;

*Requires regulatory agencies to conduct administrative rule-makings on the Internet and federal courts to post court information and judicial opinions on their Web sites;

*Authorizes $15 million in fiscal 2003 to improve recruitment and training of federal information technology professionals;

*Allows state and local governments to buy off the General Services Administration federal supply schedules for automated data processing equipment, software, supplies, support equipment and services;

*Includes the Federal Information Security Management Act, H.R. 3844, which reauthorizes and strengthens the Government Information Security Reform Act;

*Includes the Digital Tech Corps Act, H.R. 3925, which provides for an exchange of midlevel IT staff between private-sector organizations and government agencies. Exchanges would last six to 24 months, and participants would retain pay and benefits from their prospective employers while on Tech Corps assignment. Private-sector employees would be prohibited from working on trade secrets while working in the government if those secrets relate to their private-sector work;

*Establishes a program that will issue announcements seeking private-sector innovative e-government solutions and evaluate those solutions for agency use and possible funding;

*Authorizes share-in-savings contracts through 2005 for information technology, whereby the contractor shares with the agency customer the savings achieved by contractor performance.

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