2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference is this Tuesday, June 21

The House’s Legislative Data and Transparency Conference is this Tuesday, June 21, from 9-4, in the Capitol Visitor Center auditorium in Washington, DC. RSVP here.

The conference brings together individuals from Legislative Branch agencies with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future. This is the 5th annual conference, and the conversations that take place help change the nature of government.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and and the UK’s Director of Parliamentary Digital Service Rob Greig will both address the conference.Continue Reading

Data Coalition Celebrates New Open Data Law on Capitol Hill

On Wednesday, the Data Coalition hosted a Legislative Data Demo Day to show what’s possible when we make our laws and legislation more accessible.

Across all of our policy initiatives, the Data Coalition encourages federal and state governments to create or collect data in machine-readable structures using non-proprietary formats. This past Wednesday we explored how legal and regulatory information can be reformed in order to provide maximum value to both lawmakers, and the public.Continue Reading

Next Steps in Congressional Openness: News from the May Bulk Data Task Force Meeting

The 21 year-old legislative information website THOMAS will be retired on July 5 was the top news from last Wednesday’s congressional Bulk Access to Legislative Data public meeting. The fact that THOMAS was shutting down was not news, but the timing was.

While it didn’t generate a story in the press, two other developments are particularly important regarding how Congress engages the public. For the first time, the meeting was webcast and panelists—who came from offices and agencies throughout the legislative branch—responded to questions from people inside and outside the room. This will soon become regular practice; and video will shortly be available. Even more striking, Congress is responding to technical comments made on GitHub to the data it releases, creating an ongoing, real-time conversation about public access to legislative information with all the relevant stakeholders. This is a big deal. Continue Reading

So Long, THOMAS

The Library of Congress announced that the legislative information website THOMAS is scheduled to stop functioning on July 5, with Congress.gov to replace its functionality. This will allow the Library to focus all its energy on Congress.gov instead of having also to maintain a very awkward, 21-year-old website.Continue Reading

Bulk Data Task Force Meets Wednesday 4/27 at 10:30

The Congressional Bulk Data Task Force will meet this Wednesday at 10:30 am in the Legislative Resource Center in the Cannon Building near room 133. The Library of Congress graciously has offered to host the event online– go here after 10:15ish for a live feed.

On the agenda:

3 Cheers for the Door Stop Awards

The OpenGov Foundation hosted the Door Stop Awards yesterday, which recognized the largely (but not entirely) unsung efforts to open the doors of Congress to the American people.

Last night, at the first ever Door Stop Awards last night, six Members of Congress and congressional staff were honored by the open government community for their tireless efforts to drag Congress into the digital age and make the legislative branch more open, responsive, and accountable.Continue Reading

Join us for the first Door Stop Awards for Transparency!

In a time of ad hoc victories, partisanship and short-term thinking, The OpenGov Foundation is excited to announce an award for those who created structural changes inside public institutions that result in long-term transparency. They didn’t just open the door to the public, they installed a door stop to ensure that it never closes again.

Join us for the inaugural Door Stop Awards for Transparency!
Date: April 12, 2016
Location: The CTA Innovation House – 21 D St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Time: 5:30 PM— Event begins with light refreshments.
6:00— Awards ceremony.
7:00— Event concludes.

The Door Stop Awards focuses on those who have not only sparked change, but have driven change over time within an incredibly challenging environment. The honor will go to a current or former member of Congress and congressional staffer from each party.

Now you can see what reports have been published by the Congressional Research Service

Did you know the Congressional Research Service has published reports on the federal defense budget, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits, changes to hemp-growing restrictions and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus? Now you do, thanks to the R Street Institute’s Governance Project.

Using the Scribd digital library service, we have published 20 years of CRS annual reports online, including lists of the reports published by the agency. The report lists are available for viewing and downloading here.Continue Reading

House Publishes Its Rules, Jefferson’s Manual, & More Online as Structured Data

Today the Government Publishing Office published the House Manual — which contains Rules of the House of Representatives, Jefferson’s Manual, and other important legislative documents — online in a structured data format on GitHub. GPO did so pursuant to direction from the House Rules Committee, which was acting in accordance with the rules package passed at the beginning of the 114th Congress, which declares:

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.

The online publication of key legislative documents as structured data is a welcome development. The Congressional Data Coalition has for a long time requested the enhancement, which empowers further analysis and reuse of the information in many different context. I, for one, will be glad to be able to automatically track revisions in the House Rules from Congress to Congress. I know others will find much more insightful uses.

All the offices and agencies involved with the project deserve congratulations, including: the House Rules Committee, the House Parliamentarian, the Clerk of the House, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office. (I’m sure there are more.)

The House Manual, as helpfully explained in the user guide to using the electronic version of the manual, includes:

  • the U.S. Constitution
  • Jefferson’s Manual
  • the Rules of the House of Representatives
  • Provisions of the Legislative Reorganization Acts
  • Congressional Budget Act laws
  • Legislative Procedures

All of the files can be found here. I have not had an opportunity to fully review what’s online — for example, I’m trying to find an unannotated version of the House Rules— but GPO has helpfully requested feedback on the GitHub page.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions hailed the move in a statement:

Technology plays an important role in our daily lives, and it is necessary that the House keep up with the most efficient and effective ways to provide information about Congressional activities. As Chairman of the House Rules Committee, I am committed to the advancement of sharing legislative data online and am confident that our efforts will result in a better informed public.

GPO explained, in a press release, the value of publishing the documents in a more flexible format:

Making Government information available in XML permits data to be reused and repurposed not only for print output but for conversion into ebooks, mobile web applications, and other forms of content delivery, including data mashups and other analytical tools by third party providers, which contributes to openness and transparency in Government.

Good job. And thank you.

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2016 Legislative Data & Transparency Conference Set for June 21

The Committee on House Administration will host its fifth annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference on June 21, from 9-4 in the U.S. Capitol.

Free registration is now open. Continue Reading