Meet “Whip Watch”

Yesterday congressional Democrats releasedWhip Watch,” an app that provides the public (and congressional staffers) a real-time mobile view into the Democrats’ whip operation. Most notably, it includes a live floor feed showing upcoming votes, with links to bills and amendments, and an extensive list of job announcements for House Democratic offices. Also included are the daily and weekly whip notices and a session calendar. While much of this information has been available previously, it has not been published in a mobile format.Continue Reading

Legislink Goes Back in Time (and Bicameral)

The free roll call vote comparison tool Legislink has gone bicameral and back in time. It now is possible to compare roll call votes in the House and Senate going back to 1990. Previously, the site only worked for the House and only went back to 2003.

Developer Joe Carmel extended the vote data by drawing on prior work by GovTrack’s Josh Tauberer. At the click of a mouse, researchers and advocates can easily compare votes, a process that usually takes about an hour when done by hand. This is a tremendous boon for policy advocates who must mine the data for likely allies and adversaries. More on how Legislink works here.

Legisletters: A Hub for Congressional Correspondence

This week GovLab beta launched a new tool, Legisletters, which automatically gathers congressional correspondence with agencies and publishes it in a searchable, user-friendly interface. The project is the brainchild of Travis Moore and Andrew Miller, with some advice from me, and was magnificently developed by John Krauss at GovLab.Continue Reading

Events announcement: Learn Akoma Ntoso

Here is information about three upcoming events concerning Akoma Ntoso and Legal XML for Semantic Web techniques.
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Congress and HTTPS

Earlier this week our friends at the Sunlight Foundation released a report that concluded “only 15 percent of congressional websites are HTTPS ready.” The use of HTTPS reduces the risk of interception or modification of user interactions with government online services. Coincidentally, building a congressional HTTPS dashboard is on our congressional tools wish list, and I was able to help Sunlight prior to the report’s release by hand-crafting a complete list of House and Senate committee and leadership websites, along with assorted legislative support agencies and offices and a few other useful legislative branch websites.

In looking over their findings and my background research, a couple of things stood out.Continue Reading

Learning from #Hack4Congress

The Tuesday, May 12 #Hack4Congress awards ceremony at the House of Representatives’ majestic Judiciary Committee hearing room was the culmination of a 6 month long effort to engage technologically savvy members of the public with making Congress more open and efficient. The three winners of congressional data hackathons in Cambridge, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. presented their projects to three members of Congress, a bipartisan array of senior congressional staff, and a packed gallery filled with journalists, advocates, staff, academics, and others.Continue Reading

New tool: Roll Call Vote Comparisons

The indefatigable Joe Carmel, creator of LegisLink, just unveiled a new tool for comparison of House Roll Call Votes. Drawing on a combination of official source material and prior work by Josh Tauberer (of GovTrack fame), the Roll Call Comparison Tool allows the easy comparison of two roll call votes, even if they don’t take place in the same session of Congress.

Why is this important? Often times, congressional staff and advocates compare multiple votes to identify strong supporters or opponents of legislation, or figure out where a new vote is likely to come out. This work is often done by hand and can take an hour to complete per comparison. This new tool makes it instantaneous. His work was prompted by the Congressional Data Coalition’s new list of congressional civic technology tools that should be built.Continue Reading

Audio of CDC at SXSW on “Your Laws, Your Data”

In March, several members of the Congressional Data Coalition spoke at SXSW in a panel entitled “Your Laws, Your Data.” (Daniel Schuman, Congressional Data Coalition co-chair; Molly Schwartz, associate fellow, R Street Institute; Molly Bohmer, data curator, Cato Institute; and Rebecca Williams, policy analyst, data.gov.)

Audio from that conversation is now available.

Report from the 2015 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference

The House of Representatives recently held its fourth annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference. The conference provides a unique opportunity for members of Congress, congressional staff, legislative support office staff, legislative support agency staff, and the public to meet and discuss efforts to make congressional information more useful and more widely available to stakeholders inside and outside Congress. As in prior years, it was a significant success.

This blogpost covers highlights of the conference, but if you want more, here are video, slides, and the agenda for the day’s activities.Continue Reading

Identifying Legislative Data Resources and Project Ideas

As a community, we can do a better job to help people find federal legislative data sources and identify useful technology projects. This has become increasingly apparent in the wake of last week’s Legislative Data and Transparency Conference and the hackathon #Hack4Congress. Accordingly, I am pleased to announce two new community projects.

First, I’ve started an index of structured legislative data. It is published in a hackpad, so anyone can edit the document to add new ideas or clean up the first draft.

Second, I’ve started a comprehensive list of useful projects that rely on legislative data. It too is published on a hackpad. Ultimately, each project should be fleshed out with a description, links to where necessary data can be found, and the status of the project. If there are additional tools that should be built, please add them there.

Finally, we should create a more comprehensive listing of tools that allow people to follow Congress and make use of its information. For now, see this blogpost as a useful starting point.