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H.R. 2454, Sec. 204

July 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

At OpenCongress, our core mission is to build public knowledge about what’s really happening in Congress. All of the tools we’ve built on the site are designed to meet that goal. For example, we’re crowd-sourcing discovery of the best articles and comments about bills in Congress, building community-edited wikis on bills, members and candidates, and providing context to legislation through social and media data.

Another set of features we launched more recently is designed to facilitate more detailed, granular discussions of the substance of bills. In February, we added the ability to leave in-line comments on bill text and create permalinks to specific sections. With the permalinking tool, when you’re blogging about a bill or discussing it on a forum, you can use these custom urls to focus more easily on the specific provisions in a bill that you are talking about.

Jimmie Bise at the American Issues Project blog made great use of the permalinking tool today in his post examining a rumor about the cap-and-trade bill he had noticed circulating in the blogs and over email. The rumor, as he explains here, is that “if you own a home and want to sell it, the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill would require you to have your house inspected to make sure it meets a certain energy-efficiency target and, if it doesn’t make it, to bring it up to code before you sell it.” His post looks at a specific section of the bill, called the “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program”, and determines that the rumor is “not quite as bad as it could be and far worse.”

Based on his examination of the text, he came to the following conclusion: the section of the bill, he says, means, “basically, that your house belongs to the state.” Read his post to learn more. The great part about his use of the bill text linking tool is that it makes it easy to check his analysis of the bill. Instead of just talking about the gigantic, 1200+ page bill generally, Jimmie’s post opens up the subject for research and invites us all to help conduct a peer review. I encourage you to check out Jimmie’s post, then check his links to the bill text and see if you read them the same way.

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