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OpenCongress and the Fifty States

February 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

A few months after the initial launch of OpenCongress, a crafty web developed, totally independent of PPF and Sunlight, made use our open source code to build a parallel site for the Massachusetts State Legislature. OpenMass, which was built by James Caralis, gave us hope that more sites like that would start popping up to help bring transparency to state governments across the country. But alas, none have been created since then, and a big reason is that, in most states, it's just too difficul...

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Read the Bill

February 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Sunlight Foundation is asking Congress to make a common sense change to the way they operate - read the bills before they vote on them. Readthebill.org is Sunlight's petition site urging Congress to post all legislation online for at least 72 hours before it comes up for a vote. Seventy-two hours would give members of Congress time to seek changes and improvements to the laws they are making, and give the public the chance to tell their elected officials what they think about them.

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House Addresses Foreclosures (Floor Amendments)

February 25, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives on Thursday will place their vote on a major housing and mortgage reform bill, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, that has been in the works for months. This is the "cram-down" bill, which would allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. It's basically the bill that was negotiated with Citigroup back in January.

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Obama's Address to Congress

February 25, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I haven't watched this yet, maybe you haven't either: ...

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Major Bills

February 25, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I'm on a layover in Philadelphia, so no time to write, but here are links to two major pieces of legislation that were just introduced to Congress earlier this week and are slated for consideration starting today. One is the $410 billion consolidated appropriations bill for FY 2009 and the other is a major housing reform bill: * H.R.1105 - Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 * H.R. 1106 - Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 The full legislative text is posted for both; dig in ...

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All or Nothing?

February 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] has sent a letter to OMB Director Peter Orszag arguing that the stimulus bill does not allow Governors to pick and choose which portions of the bill they will accept. In the past few days, Several Governors, mainly (but not exclusively) Republicans, have said that they intend to turn down some of the stimulus funds - specifically the funds for extending unemployment benefits.

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D.C. Voting Rights Passes the Big Test

February 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With the Senate's 63 - 34 vote today on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, the District is all but assured to finally get a voting member on the House of Representatives. Today's vote was on breaking a Republican-led filibuster. It sets the Senate up for final passage of the bill later this week. Crossover votes were Republican Senators Cochran, Collins, Hatch, Lugar, Murkowski, Snowe, Specter and Voinovich voting "aye," and Democrats Baucus and Byrd voting "no."...

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$410 Billion Appropriations Bill Released

February 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Another day, another thousand-plus-page, several-hundred-billion-dollar piece of legislation drops. The House Appropriations Committee today released the full text of the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriation Act of 2009, which covers the nine federal agencies that were not funded under the normal appropriations process last year because of a standoff between Bush and Congress. Politico: When added together with prior appropriations bills for defense, veterans, and homeland security, it br...

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New Feature: Inline Commenting for Bill Text

February 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With legislation in Congress, it’s the specifics that really matter. That’s why, for every bill in Congress, now you can leave comments and spark discussion on specific blocks of text within a bill. Just scroll over any section of bill text, and the option to leave a comment will appear. After you leave a comment, a marker will show up next to the block of text you commented on so that everyone who reads through the bill knows that they can click through to view your comment.

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Senate Set to Pass D.C. Voting Rights Act

February 20, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

You know that old American slogan, "no taxation without representation?" Well, 233 years after winning our independence from Britain, more than half a million Americans are still fighting for that cause. Despite paying taxes, voting for the President and fighting in wars, residents of Washington D.C. do not have a voting representative in Congress. A bill in Congress, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, would end that by giving D.C. the status of a congressional district and allowing them to elect a member to vote on all matters in the House. It is scheduled for a vote by the Senate on Tuesday.

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Blue Dogs Waffle on EFCA

February 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) passed the House last session with all but two Democrats voting in favor. Of course, the bill never stood a chance getting through the Senate or being signed into law by Bush. But now that the Senate may actually have the votes and the President in office is an original co-sponsor of the bill, there are some strange grumblings coming from the moderate section of Democrats in the House.

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Transparency as Economic Stimulus

February 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Interesting thoughts from Evan Ratcliff at Wired on how open government data (i.e. Recovery.gov in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) can have a stimulative effect on the economy. It follows that the more governments adhere to open data principles, the more stimulative transparency will be. (h/t Ellen Miller) ...

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Gun Registry Bill Draws Massive Resistance

February 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With the election of Barack Obama in November came anxiety among gun owners that the constitutional right to bear arms would be curtailed. As the rest of the economy slumped, gun and ammunition sales surged following the election. Now there is a specific piece of legislation in Congress that gun-rights activists have identified as the leading threat - the Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.

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"No" Votes for Jobs

February 17, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Before signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on Tuesday, the Obama administration released an assortment of fact sheets on the its estimated impacts in several areas. One of those fact sheets outlines the bill's impact on employment by congressional district. CongressDaily ($) notes that, according to that document, seven of the ten districts projected to gain the most jobs under the bill are represented by Republicans in the House. The Representatives for tho...

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Public Law 111-005

February 17, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill) was officially signed into law this afternoon by President Obama. It is now Pub.L. 111-005 Shortly after the signing ceremony, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the Administration will not "foreclose" the idea of pushing a second stimulus package through Congress if this one doesn't do enough, though they have no plans to do so at the moment. ...

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