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house Bill H.R. 1079

Letting Constituents Use Digital Forms to Authorize Members of Congress to Help Them With Federal Agencies

Argument in favor

Requiring constituents to write a physical letter to authorize their members of Congress to act on their behalf in matters involving federal agencies is archaic and inefficient. Moving to an electronic system would benefit everyone, making this process easier and faster.

Raymond's Opinion
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02/12/2019
What’s taking so long for our congress to move into the digital age? This should have happened at least 10 years ago. Don’t. Stop here. Digitize and create electronic signature capability for all non-confidential government-related government-controlled information.
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Doug's Opinion
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02/12/2019
As long as the proper security measures are in place, sure.
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SneakyPete's Opinion
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02/12/2019
PASS HOUSE BILL H.R. 1079 POST HASTE Requiring constituents to write a physical letter to authorize their members of Congress to act on their behalf in matters involving federal agencies is archaic and inefficient. Moving to an electronic system would benefit everyone, making this process easier and faster. SneakyPete....... 🤷🏼‍♂️👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻🤷‍♀️
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Argument opposed

While somewhat cumbersome, paper forms are the most reliable method of recordkeeping. Unlike electronic records, which can be hacked or corrupted, paper records are generally safe from malicious attacks.

Jkris20's Opinion
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02/12/2019
We have already been hacked by Russia in the 2016 election and have not found any way to stop it. We should not go digital until we fix our hacking issues
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Paige's Opinion
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02/12/2019
Paper by default leaves a 'paper' trail and until I hear a better argument for digitizing and doing so securely i am sticking with paper.
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Anita's Opinion
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02/12/2019
I DON’T WANT MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER IN ANY MORE COMPUTER BASE THAT I’M NOT AWARE OF . THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH ME GOING TO THE OFFICE AND FILLING OUT PAPERWORK! THERE IS SO MUCH FRAUD AND ONLINE HACKING THAT I DON’T NEED TO BUY PROTECTION FOR THAT AS WELL AS ALL THE INSURANCE I ALREADY HAVE TO PAY FOR. UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEM “BUT” DO NOT LOSELY ABUSE MY PRIVATE INFORMATION!
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed February 11th, 2019
    Roll Call Vote 379 Yea / 0 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedFebruary 7th, 2019

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What is House Bill H.R. 1079?

This bill — known as the CASES Act — would allow constituents to submit an electronic release form to a congressional office they’re asking to engage a federal agency on their behalf. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would establish a uniform release form to be used electronically by all federal agencies. Current law requires that such forms be submitted in paper.

This bill’s full title is the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2019.

Impact

Constituents; Congressional staff; members of Congress; and the OMB Director.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1079

$15.00 Million
When this bill was introduced last Congress, the CBO estimated that implementing this bill would cost about $15 million over the 2019-2023 period.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Garret Graves (R-LA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to modernize a core function of congressional office operations and streamline customer service for constituents by giving constituents the option to electronically authorize their members of Congress to engage a federal agency on their behalf:

“After Louisiana’s historic flooding last [in the fall of 2016], we were all-hands-on-deck to field the thousands of calls from flood victims in need of help. It was embarrassing to have to tell people who literally just lost everything – including their printers and internet – that the law requires them to print and fax, scan, or mail in a sheet of paper authorizing us to speak to FEMA or any other agency before we could do anything. So, we immediately started efforts to identify the problem and how to fix it. It’s amazing that – in a world where nearly all adult Americans use the internet, 75% of households have broadband access in their homes and more than 80% carry a smartphone – Washington is largely doing its business the same way it did more than a quarter of a century ago. Compare your experience with FEMA or the VA with what you get from private businesses, and it’s no wonder the federal government’s approval rating is currently lower than any other sector in the United States.”

Stephanie Thum, the former vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, expressed her support for this bill in September 2017, after it was introduced in the 115th Congress:

“While it's true that very few bills introduced in Congress become law, one piece of bipartisan legislation gaining momentum in the House right now is worth tracking, especially if digital tools, customer experience, and citizen experience are part of the world you live in… [The CASES Act] is important for a few reasons. Let’s say you’re a citizen who has an issue with the Veterans Affairs Department, Medicare or Medicaid, Social Security Administration or Federal Emergency Management Agency that you’ve been unable to resolve on your own. Your issue has gotten to the point that you need your elected official to intervene with that agency on your behalf. Right now by law you have to physically print, sign and hand carry or mail a privacy release form to your elected official before they can engage that agency on your behalf. There is no digital alternative. It’s that way—the paper way—because of The Privacy Act of 1974, which came about well before technology became a truly viable way of serving citizens. CASES would amend the law so that electronic authorizations would be allowable. The path would be clear for a new digital tool or process that would help citizens engage their elected officials from the convenience of their smartphone or tablet. Under the proposed legislation, the Office of Management and Budget would be required to create a uniform release form to be used across all agencies. CASES is timely, in part, due to the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

Thum also pointed out that even if this bill doesn’t pass, it’s the start of an important conversation about digital tools for citizens:

“Of course, as anyone who has worked in the trenches of agency government customer experience, customer service, and information technology knows, if CASES becomes law, implementation won't be fast, cheap, or easy. But, even if CASES doesn't become law, discussions will move forward now surrounding laws, regulations, and rules that could be standing in the way of creating digital tools that matter to citizens. That particular conversation hasn't risen to the surface enough. It's time now.”

This bill has one cosponsor, Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), in the current Congress. Last Congress, this bill passed the House by voice vote with the support of 18 cosponsors, including 14 Republicans and four Democrats.


Of NoteThe Privacy Act of 1974 requires members of Congress or their staff to have written authorization before they can obtain information about an individual’s case. This means that constituents in need of assistance to resolve issues with the VA, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal agencies must physically print, sign, and fail, mail or hand-deliver a privacy release form to their congressional office before the office can take action on their behalf. This process is an inconvenience to constituents and can cause unnecessarily delayed issue resolution.

Currently, the need for continued use of the paper “privacy release form” (PRF) is driven by the fact that federal agencies typically don’t accept electronic signatures.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / SvetaZi)

AKA

Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2019

Official Title

To require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance on electronic consent forms, and for other purposes.

    What’s taking so long for our congress to move into the digital age? This should have happened at least 10 years ago. Don’t. Stop here. Digitize and create electronic signature capability for all non-confidential government-related government-controlled information.
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    We have already been hacked by Russia in the 2016 election and have not found any way to stop it. We should not go digital until we fix our hacking issues
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    As long as the proper security measures are in place, sure.
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    PASS HOUSE BILL H.R. 1079 POST HASTE Requiring constituents to write a physical letter to authorize their members of Congress to act on their behalf in matters involving federal agencies is archaic and inefficient. Moving to an electronic system would benefit everyone, making this process easier and faster. SneakyPete....... 🤷🏼‍♂️👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻🤷‍♀️
    Like (9)
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    Share
    Paper by default leaves a 'paper' trail and until I hear a better argument for digitizing and doing so securely i am sticking with paper.
    Like (6)
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    Too easy too easily manipulated
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    While I agree that going "digital" would expedite things, I also agree that, for the most part, PAPER isn't tampered with or as easily as digital...and the fact that MY Representative (Paul Mitchell) is FOR it, also makes me leery, since, I have NOT agreed with ONE decision he has made or backed thus far.
    Like (4)
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    I DON’T WANT MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER IN ANY MORE COMPUTER BASE THAT I’M NOT AWARE OF . THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH ME GOING TO THE OFFICE AND FILLING OUT PAPERWORK! THERE IS SO MUCH FRAUD AND ONLINE HACKING THAT I DON’T NEED TO BUY PROTECTION FOR THAT AS WELL AS ALL THE INSURANCE I ALREADY HAVE TO PAY FOR. UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEM “BUT” DO NOT LOSELY ABUSE MY PRIVATE INFORMATION!
    Like (4)
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    Stick with the paper trail. Paper can' be hacked. Old Fashion does not expire but electronics break down and there are hackers hacking
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    Needs to be hack proof, completely!
    Like (3)
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    Keeping in mind, this might be the kind of thing India, China, Russia, or North Korea might seek to hack. i
    Like (3)
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    Absolutely. If a constituent is desperate enough to go to their elected official in this day and age, they more than likely have fallen through the cracks. Not only will this rebuild the trust between the people and the government, assuming the elected official assists, but it will build relationships with those entrusted with representing the people. The net result... increased loyalty, gratitude, and trust all would be strengthened.
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    Until we can confirm that this digital age is safe and non toxic to honest people that do not hack computers to screw with other peoples lives.
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    This is an obvious progression. Letters should still be accepted and please do not forget about digital security.
    Like (2)
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    Can't tell you how many times I have had to wait for a Privacy Release form to be snail mailed to me because the download link doesn't work. Or the link works yet I don't have access to a printer & scanner so I have to wait on snail mail.
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    Like it or not the country needs to catch up to the internet age. Will that take a lot of growing pain to deal with the increased complexity of security? Yes. Is it necessary for our government to function more efficiently, probably also yes.
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    This had to be voted on?
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    You keep up with the times. Especially if there may be something that you're going to be legislating that has to do with technology it would be incumbent upon the members of the Congress and the Senate to understand the technology in one of the best ways to understand the technology is to learn how to use it.
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    Digital is the way to go.
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    This is the the digital age that we are in.
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