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Evidence-Based Policy: Murray, Ryan Introduce Bill to Expand Data Use in Evaluating Federal Programs, Tax Expenditures

April 17, 2015

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have introduced their Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 and working to pass it this Congress. The bill would establish a 15-member commission to study how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures. The commission would also study how best to protect the privacy rights of people who interact with federal agencies and ensure confidentiality.

Specifically, the commission would determine whether the federal government should establish a clearinghouse for program and survey data, which qualified researchers from both the private and public sector could access and use to perform program evaluations and policy-relevant research. By coordinating data across federal programs and tax expenditures, and giving researchers greater access to that data, federal agencies would gain a better grasp of how effective they are, and lawmakers would gain a better grasp of how to improve them.

“As we work to create jobs, grow the economy, and tackle all of our deficits fairly and responsibly, it is so important that we understand what is working in federal programs and the tax code, and what needs to be fixed,” said Sen. Murray. “Making sure Congress has the tools we need to make the best policy decisions shouldnt be a partisan issue, its about doing the right thing for the families we represent. 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.”

“If we want to make government more effective, we need to know what works,” said Rep. Ryan. “Too often, Washington rewards effort instead of results, and this commission will help us change the focus. So I want to thank my good friend Senator Murray for her hard work on this bill and urge all my colleagues to support it.”

Upon an affirmative vote of 75 percent of its members, the commission would submit a detailed report to the President and Congress on their findings along with their recommendations for legislation. The report would be due no later than 15 months after the majority of members are appointed. The President and congressional leaders would appoint the commission members from among the best practitioners in data analysis and privacy protection.

For more information, see below.

House Legislative Text

Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Commissions findings and recommendations are due to Congress 15 months after the Commission reaches 8 membersa simple majority.  The Commission ends 18 months after the date of enactment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Commission would also study how best to protect the privacy rights of people who interact with federal agencies and ensure confidentiality.
  • 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.