Congressional Technology Fellowship Program Launches

Travis Moore and New America’s Open Technology Institute announced the creation of TechCongress, a new fellowship program that places technologists in congressional offices. It will launch in 2016, and they are actively seeking applicants.

This is a great initiative with tremendous promise.

Join Us for a Reception Following the Congressional Hackathon

Join the Congressional Data Coalition, the R Street Institute, Demand Progress, and the OpenGov Foundation for a reception at Google DC following the Congressional Hackathon.

WHEN: Friday, October 23, at 5:30 pm

WHERE: 25 Massachusetts Ave NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC

RSVP: https://congressdata.splashthat.com/

Save the Date: Second Congressional Hackathon Oct. 23

The Second Congressional Hackathon will take place at the U.S. Capitol on October 23 from 10-5. Hosted by Majority Leader McCarthy and Democratic Whip Hoyer, the hackathon is intended to explore how we can modernize Congress–from open data to updating constituent engagement.

To RSVP, go here.

The First Congressional Hackathon–#InHackWeTrust–was a great event, with tons of information about the ongoing work of the House and, equally as important, it presented a fantastic opportunity for real conversations between staff, technologists, and advocates. I wrote about it here.

With the same offices behind this hackathon, we have high hopes. Since the first congressional hackathon, there has been a series of public meetings and conferences hosted by the Clerk of the House, the launch of new pro-transparency congressional policies and tools, the creation of the open source caucus, and a civil society-organized congressional hackathon entitled #Hack4Congress. With so many new resources available (and more coming soon), and a spirit of cooperation between congressional staff and the public, I cannot wait to see what can be accomplished.

We will post more information as it becomes available.

Congressional Open Source Technology Caucus Launches

Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Jared Polis (D-CO) announced the formation of the Congressional Open Source Technology Caucus last week and are looking for other representatives to serve as founding members. This comes after a June announcement that open source software is now permitted in the House of Representatives.Continue Reading

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

It’s Time for Congress to Publish CRS Reports

This morning the New York Times editorialized in favor of public access to Congressional Research Service reports.

Given the extreme partisanship and gridlock in Congress, it’s more crucial than ever to have an informed electorate. Putting these reports in the public domain is an important step toward that goal.

Over the years our coalition has submitted testimony in favor of public access to these reports, most recently in March. In summary, the reports explain current legislative issues in language that everyone can understand, are written by a federal agencies that receives more than $100 million annually, and there is strong public demand for access. A detailed description of the issues at play is available hereContinue Reading

Senate Preview of the Next Day’s Floor Schedule and Activity Wrap-up

While leadership for Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives send email floor alerts for the upcoming day’s legislative activities (and House Dems have a neat new mobile app), the Senate does not. Senate Democrats and Republicans publish on the web a daily summary of the prior day’s activities and what they expect will be on the schedule for the upcoming day. If you’re like me, this is useful information to have pushed to your inbox. Now you can.

Using the free web service IFTTT.com, which allows anyone to build simple connections between online products and apps, it is possible to take the RSS news feeds published by Democrats and Republicans and have it sent to you whenever it is updated. These connections are called recipes. I’ve build recipes for both parties and published them online.

The Democrats publish more information in their RSS feed, which is more useful for our purposes because it includes details. Here are the recipes you can add to your own account:

The Republicans do not publish much information in their feed, but they do let you know when their website has been updated (which contains more info).

  • The bare-bones Republican floor wrap can subscribed to here.
  • I have not been able to figure out how to pull the Republican preview of the next days’ activities from their feed without getting everything else. If you figure it out, let me know.

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