2002 Scorecard Vote
During House debate over legislation to establish the Department of Homeland Security, some members of Congress used national security concerns to press for a new category of protected information--"voluntarily submitted critical infrastructure information"--that would be exempt from a number of public disclosure requirements. Under the resulting House bill, a private company could determine unilaterally whether material it shares with the government fits this exemption. The exempt information could not be released under the Freedom of Information Act or used in civil litigation against the company. Government employees who released the information could be jailed for a year.
Opponents of this provision contended that it was written so broadly that it could render off-limits a large array of information routinely used by federal, state and local governments to enforce laws. In particular, the provision could bar the government from disclosing information on environmental hazards, health hazards, product defects and other dangers, including reports of accidental spills. The exemption could also shelter industries from the consequences of violating the nation's environmental, consumer protection, and health and safety laws.
During floor debate of the House homeland security bill (H.R. 5005), Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced an amendment to strike this exemption. On July 26, 2002, the House rejected the Schakowsky amendment by a 188-240 vote (House roll call vote 363). YES is the pro-environment vote. At press time the Senate had not yet finished its consideration of Homeland Security legislation.