Ending GovTrack’s bulk data and API

Open legislative data has been a core part of GovTrack’s mission since 2005, when there wasn’t very much of it. We were the first to provide comprehensive information about Congress’s legislative activities in an open, structured data format — a technical format that software developers (building websites and apps), journalists, and researchers used for new and unexpected purposes to create a more open and accountable government.

Eventually other organizations and Congress itself joined the effort. Official data from Congress reached new heights this year, after a long campaign by us and other advocates, and organizations like ProPublica have become data providers too.

Consequently, I’ve decided that it is time for us to end our work on open data so we can use our time more effectively on other parts of GovTrack.us.

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The GovTrack Insider

Legislative data is only the beginning to understanding what Congress does and how it works. That’s why earlier this month GovTrack.us launched GovTrack Insider, a blog on Medium covering Congress’s daily activities. Each post on GovTrack Insider summarizes recent major legislative activity that would be hard to find just by looking at the official record. Recent posts have looked at amendments to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act and the controversial Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).Continue Reading

Congressional Data Coalition writes to House appropriators

In a new letter to the House this month, we joined 18 other organizations and individuals in calling for access to the legislative data on bill status that Congress has but won’t share.

The letter was sent by the new Congressional Data Coalition, formed this month of citizens, public interest groups, trade associations, and businesses who champion greater governmental transparency through improved public access to and long-term preservation of congressional information.Continue Reading

The original text of the Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act was enacted twice, and the one that we know and celebrate is, technically, not the one that became law. This early history of FOIA provides an interesting case study in the complexities of the codification of our federal statutes.

What we commonly consider the Freedom of Information Act, S. 1160 in the 89th Congress, was signed by President Johnson on July 4, 1966. It became Pub.L. 89–487 / 80 Stat. 250. Its effective date was one year later on July 4, 1967, and in fact it never became law: it was repealed before its effective date. More on that below.Continue Reading

More on counting laws and discrepancies in the Resume of Congressional Activity

After my last post yesterday about Congress incorrectly counting the new laws in 2013, Daniel Schuman (of CREW) suggested that I look at previous installments of the Resume of Congressional Activity to see if there were other long-standing discrepancies in these historical counts of the number of laws passed by each Congress.

I went through each of the PDFs listed at https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout… and compared the totals by Congress (a Congress is a two-year period of legislative activity), and then compared those totals to other sources.Continue Reading