A Guide for Appropriators on Opening Up Congressional Information and Making Congress Work Better

For the fifth year in a row, today members of the Congressional Data Coalition submitted testimony to House Appropriators on ways to open up legislative information. The bipartisan coalition focused on tweaking congressional procedures and releasing datasets that, in the hands of third parties, will strengthen Congress’ capacity to govern.

The testimony took note of notable successes:

We commend the House of Representatives for its ongoing efforts to open up congressional information. We applaud the House of Representatives for publishing online and in a structured data format bill text, status, and summary information — and are pleased the Senate has joined the effort. We commend the ongoing work on the Amendment Impact Program and efforts to modernize how committee hearings are published. We look forward to the release of House Rules and House Statement of Disbursements in structured data formats.

We would also like to recognize the growing Member and Congressional staff public engagement around innovation, civic technology and public data issues. From the 18 Members and dozens of staff participating in last year’s nationwide series of #Hack4Congress civic hacking events to the Second Congressional Hackathon co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, there is a growing level of enthusiastic support inside the institution for building a better Congress with better technology and data. Moreover, the House Ethics Committee’s recent approval of open source software and the launch of the Congressional Open Source Caucus means good things are in store for 2016.

This groundswell of support cuts across all ages, geographic areas and demographics, both inside and outside Congress. We are excited for the House’s 2016 legislative data and transparency conference and appreciate the quarterly public meetings of the Bulk Data Task Force.

And made recommendations on where the House should focus next or what kinds of data should be released:

● Extend and Broaden the Bulk Data Task Force
● Release the Digitized Historical Congressional Record and Publish Future Editions in XML
● Publish all Congress.gov Information in Bulk and in a Structured Data Format
● Include All Public Laws in Congress.gov
● Publish Calendar of Committee Activities in Congress.gov
● Complete and Auditable Bill Text
● CRS Annual Reports and Indices of CRS Reports
● House and Committee Rules
● Publish Bioguide in XML with a Change Log
● Constitution Annotated
● House Office and Support Agency Reports

Signatories included: Center for Data Innovation, Data Coalition, Demand Progress, Free Government Information, GovTrack.Us, New America’s Open Technology Institute, OpenGov Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.Org, R Street Institute, and the Sunlight Foundation.

Read the testimony here. A primer on the work of the Congressional Data Coalition and its testimony over the last half decade is here.