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.

House Appropriators Look at Legislative Branch Transparency

At last week’s full committee markup of the Legislative branch’s appropriations bill, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) offered an amendment that set the stage for more transparency around Congressional Research Service reports; Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) successfully pushed for an amendment to create a House Technology Task Force; and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) offered and withdrew an amendment to create a task force on establishing a bicameral chief technology officer.

Also debated were cuts in funding to the Government Publishing Office’s online document repository FDSys and the defunding of the Open World Leadership Council, an international legislative exchange program. Included in the final appropriations bill was the continuation of a cost-savings effort to limit or ban the distribution of print copies of documents to congressional offices, including bills and resolutions, the Congressional Record, the U.S. Code, Reports of Disbursements, and the Daily Calendar, in favor of online access.Continue Reading

Meet Civicist

Recently, our friends who run the Personal Democracy Forum, Civic Hall, and the recently retired group blog TechPresident, announced a new project, Civicist. Run by Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej, Civicist is a “hub for news and analysis of the civic tech world.” Since members of the Congressional Data Coalition are all about using legislative data to make Congress more open, accountable, and effective, we are excited to see Andrew and Micah bringing their prodigious energies to telling the very important civic technology stories (including the significant changes at the federal level).Continue Reading

Legislative Project Ideas for Coders and Non-Coders

I thought it would be useful to identify legislative data projects in advance of the House’s annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference and #Hack4Congress, a congressional hackathon we are co-hosting with our friends the OpenGov Foundation. I have written about some ideas previously, and others are newly published or elaborations. Not all are mine, but I like them all.Continue Reading

CDC Submits Testimony to Senate Appropriators, Outlines Next Steps for Legislative Data

On Friday, March 27th, the Congressional Data Coalition and allies submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. In the testimony, we commend he Senate for committing to publishing bill status, summary, and text in a structured-data format that is capable of download in bulk. We also requested the Senate continue down the path of public access to legislative information by addressing the following issues:

  • Extend and broaden the Bulk Data Task Force
  • Publish the Congressional Record in XML and eliminate electronic publication gaps
  • Publish a complete and auditable archive of bill text, in a structured electronic format
  • Instantiate a Senate-wide committee record publishing system
  • Publish a contemporaneous list of widely-distributed CRS reports that contains the report name, publication/revision/withdrawal date, and report ID number
  • Release widely-distributed CRS reports to the public
  • Publish Bioguide in XML with a change log
  • Publish the Constitution Annotated in a machine readable format
  • Publish Senate office and support agency reports online
  • Publish Senate Expenditure Reports in a machine-readable format

We previously submitted testimony on the FY 2016 congressional budget to the House of Representatives.

Save the Date: House Legislative Data and Transparency Conference April 29

The House of Representatives will be holding its 2015 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference on April 29th at the CVC. The public is invited. I will post more information as it becomes available.

Also, please remember that the OpenGov Foundation is holding a legislative data hackathon in DC running from the 29th to May 1st (which we are co-sponsoring). More information on the hackathon is here.

Update: RSVP here. Invitation below.Continue Reading

Congressional Data Coalition Applauds House Legislative Data Transparency Efforts, Asks for More

On March 6, the Congressional Data Coalition and allies submitted testimony to the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee regarding its 2016 appropriation that applauded recent progress in making legislative data more open while urging additional reforms. It is worth repeating the significant progress that has been made and our recommendations for the future, so please find a summary below. The full testimony is hereContinue Reading

Meet us in Austin: SXSW Panel “Your Laws, Your Data”

Members of the Congressional Data Coalition will be headlining a SXSW panel entitled: “Your Laws, Your Data: Making Government More Open.” Join us on Friday, March 13 from 12:30-1:30 in room Room 10AB at the Austin Convention Center. Speakers include 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, Continue Reading

House of Representatives Places an Order for Legislative Data Transparency

When the House of Representatives adopted new rules for the 114th Congress, it took an unprecedented step forward. As part of the orders for the new Congress, the House committed to broadening the availability of legislative documents in machine readable formats. As Joe Biden might say, this is a big freaking deal.

The Committee on House Administration, the Clerk, and other officers and officials of the House shall continue efforts to broaden the availability of legislative documents in machine readable formats in the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress in furtherance of the institutional priority of improving public availability and use of legislative information produced by the House and its committees.

In plain English, the House will do more to make sure information about what it does is available to journalists, non profits, and the general public. As it turns out, most people get information about Congress from third parties, so this will greatly expand access to information about Congress. It also is the latest in a series of moves to expand smart publication of legislative information.

Of course, we at the Congressional Data Coalition have recommendations on what the House should do. Continue Reading

Join Us at #Hack4Congress in SF and DC

The Congressional Data Coalition is pleased to join our friends in co-sponsoring #Hack4Congress in San Francisco on March 21-22 and Washington, DC on April 29-May 1. What is it? Well…

#Hack4Congress brings together political scientists, technologists, designers,  lawyers, organizational psychologists, and lawmakers to foster new digital tools, policy innovations, and other technology  innovations to address the dysfunction in Congress. 

Here’s logistical information:Continue Reading