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.

UCGIS strongly supports the Bill as it is, and we align with groups such as NSGIC (the National States Geospatial Information Council) and Boundless in this. There are many extremely important and worthwhile parts to these Bills that are critical to our NSDI, making enactment worth continuing to pursue in this Congress.

Fortunately and significantly, additional Senators and Representatives continue to join as co-Sponsors of the bill, bringing the number in the Senate to six Republicans, seven Democrats, and one Independent; in the House, two Democrats and three Republicans are co-sponsors. This growing and bipartisan support is essential but more is needed now. The Bill’s first Sponsor, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is set to retire in January 2019, and the odds are stacked against the passage of this legislation, given (dysfunctional) patterns of progress in Congress these days.

Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to keep informed about the Geospatial Data Act and encourage your State’s Congressional representatives to do the same. In particular, if your State’s Senate or House delegate is on one of the committees to which either Bill is assigned, we encourage you to send a letter of support or make a phone call to let them know you support the bill.


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