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Update on the Geospatial Data Act of 2017

Whatever happened to the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017, you may be wondering? This important bill is designed to facilitate and support geospatial data development, sharing, and coordination across federal agencies and partnerships with state and local governments, towards a more robust National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). Unfortunately, the bill has yet to reach congressional floors for a vote. Back in mid-November 2017, parallel versions of a revised Geospatial Data Act of 2017 made their way to their respective committees in the Senate (S. 2128) and the House (H.R. 4395). You can find the committee assignments at the links to the bills above. Those identical bills had been modified to remove language in two places, Sections 11 and 12, that UCGIS and many other organizations and individuals had previously regarded as problematic to the pursuit of open GIS and mapping activities in academic and public sectors.

Since that time, actions have been largely behind the scenes and the bills remain on their respective congressional dockets. Further discussions and debate around data and mapping language have taken place but have yielded no changes to the text.

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Update: 2017 Geospatial Data Act

Update: 2017 Geospatial Data Act

Many UCGIS members have been tracking the Geospatial Data Act of 2017 (GDA) introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year (S.1253 and H.R.3522).  The initially introduced bill has sections that are unfavorable to the principles of our organization and members.Specifically, Section 11 proposes to define “geospatial data” as “surveying and mapping” and those providing geospatial data services could be limited to “licensed architectural and engineering firms.” Additionally, Section 12 of the original text also included language related to “a person licensed to provide such services under State law.” UCGIS wrote a letter to our member delegates in August 2017 about this bill.

We are pleased to share the news that the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has submitted revised language for the GDA that has Sections 11 and 12 removed. It is anticipated that the Senate and House bills may be reintroduced as early as this week, mid-November. We encourage you to keep apprised of these developments and share your opinions with your own state’s congressional offices.

Issues with the Geospatial Data Act of 2017

The Geospatial Data Act of 2017 has been making news in the geospatial community since its introduction in May of this year by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. You can find the full text available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1253.  As of early August, the bill had been introduced in the Senate, and referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.  Earlier this summer the organization NSGIC (https://www.nsgic.org/) posted on their site that they were supporting the bill and had assisted in drafting some of the language in the text.  The stated goal is focused on strengthening efforts at building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and to reduce duplicated efforts by various agencies in authoring geospatial data.  While these are certainly goals that are shared by many in the wider geospatial community (including UCGIS), several organizations, such as COGO and AAG, have noted that some of the language in the bill is unnecessarily vague and may be interpreted to exclude many institutions and individuals currently producing geospatial data for the government.

More specifically, the bill assigns “geospatial data” with the same definition as “survey and mapping” and then provides a very broad use of the definition as it relates to the Geospatial Data Act.  The definition language used in the bill is based on the Brooks Architect-Engineers Act (cite) that requires that work falling under the definitions above are awarded exclusively to A&E firms with professionally licensed staff.

Some examples included in the Geospatial Data Act include:

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Update 2: Geospatial Data Act of 2017

Update #2: 2017 Geospatial Data Act

On Wednesday November 15, 2017, revised versions of the Geospatial Data Act were introduced in Congress (S.2128 and H.R.4395). The problematic Sections 11 and 12 have been removed, in part due to the persuasive and succinct arguments that UCGIS and other geospatial organizations were able to make. A great way to celebrate GIS Day! You can read UCGIS's interpretation of the original bill here.

UCGIS strongly supports this revised version of the bills. As always, we encourage you to keep apprised of these developments and share your opinions with your own state’s congressional offices.