Automating the Plum Book and other Sunshine Week bills

Among the current crop of "Sunshine Week" bills are measures to continually update the Plum Book of federal appointments and to require the president to establish records management controls to store electronic messages in a way that they can later be searched and retrieved.

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Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of bills centered on transparency and accountability during Sunshine Week, an initiative highlighting open government.

One bill would modernize the Plum Book, a listing of appointments in the executive and legislative branches that comes out every four years. The book offers a window into appointments and who filled them at the end of every administration, but it's often incomplete.

The Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act, or PLUM Act, would make it into a continually-updated online directory of appointments maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. Agencies would be required to give data like the names of appointees, their agency, location and type of position, to OPM on a monthly basis.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) are sponsoring the bill in the House. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) will offer the bill in the Senate, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform's statement about the bill.

Democrats also reintroduced a bill to protect the right of feds to request government information using the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act by shielding them from retaliation for submitting requests. Government employers would be outlawed from using personnel actions to retaliate against employees for requesting information.

Maloney and Connolly reintroduced the bill in the House on March 18. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced it in the Senate.

"Federal employees must be able to request and obtain government information in the same way as any member of the public. Federal employees do not lose this right just because they are working as public servants," the group said in a statement about the bill.

Maloney also introduced a bill to update the Presidential Records Act on Monday. It would require the senior White House officials to preserve records documenting the president's official action. The bill would also require the president to order the creation of records management controls to store electronic messages so that they can be searched and retrieved.