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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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Last week there was a brief flurry on the micropublishing service re: possibility of a version control system (VCS) for laws. Background links via the incredible research of Rob Richards - this post by Abe Volcker on "GitLaw" made a splash on Hacker News. Here's an unedited-draft, non-exhaustive, quick-fast sketch of a response from my point of view.

First, though, please read this enlightening Quora thread in full: "What are the nontechnical barriers to adopting a version control system for use in writing bills / new laws?" My apologies to have a pre-requisite, but it's crucial background & full of expert insight. 

Click through for my take on public accountability through an open VCS for laws. (I'm bullish!) 

 

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The Color (and Gender) of Congress

February 1, 2011 - by Conor Kenny

Just what does the new Congress look like? A few weeks ago, we asked you to find photos for each of the incoming freshman members of Congress and you delivered. Volunteer located and uploaded headshots for each member and what we can tell you is… Congress remains overwhelmingly male and white. (See all the photos over on the OpenCongress wiki.)

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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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ACORN Suing Federal Government Over Vote in House

November 12, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

In September, the House of Representatives voted to ban funding the community organization Acorn. At the time questions arose as to whether the language stripping Acorn of funds was unconstitutional. The Constitution forbids bills of attainder, legislation targeting one specific individual or organization.

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One year after the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression, Congress is still debating new financial regulations to protect consumers and prevent risk-taking in the financial sector. The House Committee on Financial Services is currently undertaking the important first step of writing, amending and voting on some of the pieces of the long-proposed financial regulatory reform.

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Expanding Congress

September 17, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

For nearly 100 years the House of Representatives has remained the same size. 435 lawamakers. There have been two expansions of staff for lawmakers, in 1946 and 1970, but no expansion of lawmakers for citizens. That may change as a federal lawsuit has been filed charging that the current seat apportionment system disenfranchises smaller states.

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Congress Links

September 16, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

With the introduction of the Baucus bill yesterday, I wanted to wait a bit before getting Congress Links up. Space flight, the Patriot Act, and DoMA were in the news today:

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What's 1,000 Pages Got to Do With It?

August 26, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

Over the summer quite a number of people have raised hackles about the length of legislation. Recently, Sen. David Vitter declared his "fundamental" opposition to "any 1,000 page bill." While this appears to be a new found opposition -- Vitter voted in favor of the 1,000 page Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 -- the trend of lengthy legislation is not new.

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RaceTracker Had a Good Opening Weekend

June 16, 2009 - by Conor Kenny

In the first weekend since its debut last Thursday, the RaceTracker project had 21 volunteer editors update 61 House, Senate and governor races across the country and visitors viewed pages more than 15,000 times over the first four days. DailyKos.com has also implemented automatic links to the RaceTracker from all posts tagged with a congressional district, senate seat or governor's election. We were also able to see the safeguards of the system — principally the requirement that every addition be linked to an outside, verifiable source — work to maintain the integrity of the information on the wiki.

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My trip to ClosedCongress

June 15, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Regular site users know that we lag a bit (about 24 hours) behind THOMAS, the official site of the Library of Congress, when we put bill information and roll call votes on OpenCongress. This is a result of several factors, but put simply, we have to wait for the information to be online before our servers can collect it for publication. For the vast majority of users, this system works: Congress usually moves so slowly that waiting 24 hours to read the bill text or review a roll-call vote is not much of a problem.

We do run into trouble, however, when legislation being debated in Congress is not made available online.

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The RaceTracker project on OpenCongress — a non-partisan, fully-referenced, open-source and crowd-sourced wiki project — now lists every candidate running in every U.S. Senate, House and governor's race! The folks over at the Swing State Project, the coordinators of this wiki community project, have completed a nationwide survey of the candidates in each race and will be using crowd-sourced participation to keep it current as we move towards 2010. You can now check on the status of each of the seven candidates considering a run for the seat of Illinois' Sen. Roland Burris (D) or the eight who are eyeing Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.). We'll even tell you who's a confirmed candidate versus who's merely considering or rumored to be a candidate, how much money they've raised, the district boundaries and the district-specific electoral trends in the last three presidential elections.

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Congress will investigate a controversial intelligence-gathering program after officials within the National Security Agency said it may have overstepped its bounds in conducting electronic surveillance on Americans. According to a story first reported in the New York Times, officials with the Justice Department, along with NSA personnel, discovered the irregular activity during a regular review of the program. DOJ staff discovered NSA had eavesdropped on domestic e-mails and telephone calls o...

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