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Congress stall bulk access to legislative information

Daniel Schuman of Sunlight Foundation and Josh Tauberer of give easy to understand explanations of the importance of a bill before Congress (H.R. 5882) that deals with open access to bulk Congressional data.

The committee report on the bill gives an embarrassing justification for denying bulk access to legislation:

…the Committee is also concerned that Congress maintains the ability to ensure that its legislative data files remain intact and a trusted source once they are removed from the Government’s domain to private sites.

This is either disingenuous or badly informed.

  • Bulk Access Developments after the H. Approps Hearing, by Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation (June 1, 2012).

    Instead of striking a balance between the desire for openness with legitimate concerns about process, they fell victim to fears and misunderstanding about technology that resulted in a ham-fisted process that will likely freeze any forward momentum, or maybe even turn back the clock.

  • Rep. Crenshaw thinks American public can’t be trusted with overseeing Congress, by Josh Tauberer, Blog (June 4, 2012).

    …for the last eight years I’ve been making this sort of information available on GovTrack, and last I checked that was a good thing. Even Congress’s staff uses GovTrack: Crenshaw’s own staff has probably used GovTrack for their research.

I missed this piece which is another good explanation:

  • Hill may freeze THOMAS in digital past, by Jennifer Peebles, Washington Examiner (May 31, 2012).

    A web interface that lets us call up and download one bill at a time was really innovative once — say, 15 years ago. But that won’t cut it anymore.

    Folks with computers — notably, professional and citizen journalists — would be able to take information about massive numbers of bills and analyze them in myriad ways — if Congress would allow such information to be downloaded from THOMAS in bulk.

    It won’t. And, according to a new draft report from the House Appropriations Committee, it won’t be allowing bulk data downloads from THOMAS anytime soon.

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