Our friends at Open Congress recently provided a concrete example of the benefit of being able to work with government provided data. In a July 1, 2009 blog posting titled See all the Last-Minute Changes to the Climate Change Bill blogger Donny Shaw notes:
We may never get the details of the back-room negotiating that took place leading up to the bill’s passage in the House on Friday, but with OpenCongress’s legislative versioning tool we can see exactly what was changed in the bill in the process and then start to figure out why. Just go to the text of the bill as passed by the House and select “Show Changes.” You can scan the entire bill and see, with color-coded text, exactly what was changed – red, stuck-out text denoting changed or removed sections in the bill, and green text denoting sections that were inserted or modified.
Donny spent about 30 minutes scanning through the bill’s changes and documented what he found. What can you find?
This sort of quick work at finding rush changes is only possible because copyright-free federal legislation is available to transparency organizations like OpenCongress to put into their change revision software. This gives regular citizens specialized access to legislation that was formerly only available to subscribers to expensive premium services. This is a good thing. The Government Printing Office’s talks with the Library of Congress about bulk distribution of legislative data will only make things easier.