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Update June 6th 7pm ET: hmm, some encouraging words from House GOP Leadership, summarized expertly by our ally Daniel Schuman: Major Transparency Milestone in Bulk Access Statement. We'll be watchdogging the process... a bit more inside. 

PreviouslyTHOMAS.loc.gov is the public-facing website for federal legislative information - bills, actions, votes, etc. The many closed databases that populate THOMAS are, for practical purposes, the primary source of laws from the U.S. Congress. These laws shape the experience of our contemporary lives & political landscape.

Attendees of the Legislative Data & Transparency Conference from Feb. 2012, I invite you to publicly stand behind the House Approps Subcommittee statements & those of Rep. Crenshaw (R, FL-04) as Chair. Edited June 6th 9am ET:  new names this morning: Dr. Billington, on behalf of LoC; Davita Vance-Cooks, on behalf of GPO; invite you to take a stand on behalf of your insitutions.

... click through for more links & justified impatience. Let's have a public discourse about #FreeTHOMAS. It's been over ten years for Josh at GovTrack; five years since OC launched; three years since the bulk data task force; etc. Come on.

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PPF is proud to stand with our allies the Sunlight FoundationGovTrack.us, and many others in the #opengov & legal informatics community in calling for #opengovdata - specifically, to oppose H.R. 5882 (sponsor: Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R , FL-04]) in its current form as it's planned to be brought to the House floor this week.

We called our long-planned wiki-whip-count effort on OC: #FreeTHOMAS. Now, we have the specific legislative item from the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations: click here to email your reps in opposition to H.R. 5882. Click through for more info & outrage. Totally unacceptable that we still don't have bulk access to public bill data. 

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Congress Refuses to #FreeTHOMAS (updated)

May 17, 2012 - by David Moore

Update, May 30th, 2012, 5pm ET: Ohh hell no. They're blocking you, you reading this now, from accessing #opendata about bills in Congress. This afternoon, Daniel Schuman & Eric Mill with our partners Sunlight Foundation posted this seriously unfortunate, significantly discouraging, sadly expected update: "Appropriators May Undercut Legislative Transparency". 

Background on OC Blog: our campaign is to #FreeTHOMAS now. See our #FreeTHOMAS community wiki whip count page for more info & links. 

Primary point of contact here should be office of Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R, FL-04], on behalf of the intentionally, insistently closed-off Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Give them a ring and let them know that even if you're not a constituent, you demand bulk access to public legislative information - Rep. Crenshaw's office phone is 202-225-2501. Click through for more updates. 

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Liberate OpenGovData Now

February 1, 2012 - by David Moore

It's 2012 - we don't have hover skateboards, and we don't have #opengov. We could have the latter, at least, in the here and now, benefiting every American, if the systemically corrupt U.S. Congress was capable of reforming itself (which it is currently, unfortunately, not). (Right, '80's movie art, w/ connotations of liberation by force and yet a certain datedness... it's past time.) 

I'm writing this on the train from NYC to D.C., en route to the Conference on Legislative Data & Transparency to be held Thursday, Feb. 2nd, 9am - 5pm ET - agenda here, webcast live here, micro-publishing updates here.

This shouldn't be a negotiation - rather, I'm here to call for liberation of public legislative data via bulk access and moving towards an open API for THOMAS. Then proceeding aggressively to API enhancements for Congressional offices to continually engage with constituent communications - for a living, breathing deliberative democracy - aided by open technology.

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More on the Republicans' Open Data Letter

April 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As David mentioned earlier, the House Republican leadership's letter directing the Clerk of the House to improve how they release legislative data online is a big deal. It means that the House is serious about catching up with the standards and expectations of modern information users, both developers and consumers. It's also a sign that Congress is becoming more comfortable with loosening its grip on information about its activities and beginning to appreciate the value of unleashing it as public data into the wilds of the internet.

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Important blog post just published by our colleague John Wonderlich over on our partners the Sunlight Foundation: House Speaker Boehner & Majority Leader Cantor have sent a letter instructing the House Clerk to work towards "publicly releasing the House's legislative data in machine-readable formats". This is just a very first baby step towards comprehensive #opengovdata in the legislative branch and federal government in general, and is just the start of a more transparent & deliberative democratic process, and will require much public watchdogging & accountability to the #opengov community, but amounts to a solidly encouraging step.

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Congressional Budget Would Defund Open Gov Data

March 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

 

Of all the federal government's investments, none have more potential to increase efficiency, save taxpayers money and stoke private-sector innovation than the E-Government Fund. The fund was created by Congress in 2002 to help bring agencies into the 21st century, both in how they use technology internally and how they disseminate government information to the public. Many of the initiatives begun by the fund are just now getting under way, but, unfortunately, when Congress passes their next budget, they may face termination. As Daniel Schuman at the Sunlight Foundation reports, the FY 2011 continuing resolution that Democrats and Republicans are currently working on would nearly eliminate the fund:

 

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Just a reminder that ahead of tonight's #SoTU bipartisan seating plan, you can compare any two members' head-to-head voting record on major bills from the previous 110th and 11th Congresses. (At the bottom of each page is a link to view all voting comparison information for all bills. Of course, not every member will have roll call data for us to draw on -- some were newly elected to the previous 111th Congress. We'll load new bills from the current 112th Congress into this as soon as our modest web development resources allow -- would you like to support our open-source efforts to build public knowledge about Congress? Fund our non-profit work!) See, for example, ideological opposites Sens. Coburn (R-OK) and Schumer (D-NY), who plan to buddy up, or Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC) & Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

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From Earmarking to Lettermarking

December 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Disclosure in the earmarking process has never been state-of-the-art. Earmark requests and funds secured for projects are released to the public in clunky, non-machine processable PDF files that are often more than hundred pages long and are not sortable in any way, for example by sponsor, recipient, or amount. The disclosures are a far cry from being truly open government data.

But at least it's something. As Ron Nixon at the New York Times reports today, when there's not a formal earmarking process (e.g. the earmark-free government funding arrangement we're operating under right now), Congress' work to direct federal funds to their pet projects doesn't actually stop, it just becomes much more secretive.

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OpenCongress at Personal Democracy Forum - Europe

October 11, 2010 - by David Moore

Last week, I had the opportunity to represent the OpenCongress team at the Personal Democracy Forum - Europe conference held at the University of Barcelona. PdF is already known as the leading tech-politics conference on the U.S. side of the pond, and they reliably exported their curatorial skills to Spain for the second year in a row, gathering a remarkable group of participants. Check out the full conference agendas for Day One & Day Two , and click through for video from my presentation as part of a panel on "Transparency and Open Information in the US and Western Europe". 

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Make Government Data Pretty, Win Cash

May 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Attention, web designers and visual artists. Sunlight Labs' first ever Design for America contest is currently underway. They are offering $40,000 for examples in eight categories of government information made awesome through design and visualization. Jump on it now as the submission deadline is approaching quickly (though you still have some time).

 

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