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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Legislative Data now available in bulk. Thanks GPO and Library of Congress!

Here’s some big news. According to Daniel Schuman at the Congressional Data Coalition, today the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress opened up the bulk data tap for bills, bill summaries, and bill statuses! See below for Daniel’s description of the new service and its implications.

Today the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress completed a full revolution in public access to legislative information. Information about legislative actions in congress -– the bills, summaries of the bills, and their status –- is now available online, in bulk, in a structured data format. As I wrote in December, this has great significance:

  • It marks the publication of essential legislative information in a format that supports unlimited public reuse, analysis, and republication. It is now possible to see much of a bill’s life cycle.
  • It illustrates the positive relationship that has grown between Congress and the public on access to legislative information, where there is growing open dialog and conversation about how to best meet our collective needs.
  • It is an example of how different components within the legislative branch are engaging with one another on a range of data-related issues, sometimes for the first time ever, under the aegis of the Bulk Data Task Force.
  • It means the Library of Congress and GPO will no longer be tied to the antiquated THOMAS website and can focus on more rapid technological advancement. (At least for data from the 113th and 114th Congresses).
  • It shows how a diverse community of outside organizations and interests came together and built a community to work with Congress for the common good.

Twenty Years of THOMAS

Andrew Weber, Legislative Information Systems Manager at the Law Library of Congress, writes about the history of THOMAS, which is now Congress.gov.

  • Twenty Years of THOMAS, by Andrew Weber, In Custodia Legis, blog of the Law Library of Congress (January 5, 2015).

Be the Bill: Legislative Explorer visualizes the legislative process

This is what open data can do. Check out Legislative Explorer, an interactive visualization that allows anyone to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress, compare bills and resolutions introduced by Senators and Representatives and follow their progress from the beginning to the end of a two year Congress. You can filter by topic, type of legislation, chamber, party, member, or even search for a specific bill.

Legislative Explorer draws from an underlying relational database that includes information about the legislative histories, topics and sponsors of more than 250,000 bills and resolutions (1973-present). The database is updated nightly to reflect changes in the status of current bills.

  • The Library of Congress, THOMAS website (including Congress.gov)
  • E. Scott Adler and John Wilkerson, The Congressional Bills Project
  • Josh Tauberer, Govtrack.us and Unitedstates/Congress GitHub
  • Charles Stewart and Jonathon Woon, Congressional Committees dataset
  • Keith Poole, VoteView

Legislative Explorer data is updated nightly. More detailed descriptions of the data sources and bulk downloads are available at: http://cappp.org/index.php/data.

HT to Cass Hartnett who posted about this on govdoc-l.

Big Step for Public Access to Legislation

Daniel Schuman reports: “Earlier today, the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee made a major move towards improving public access to legislative information. In layman’s terms, the committee said that by the beginning of the next Congress information about the disposition of bills—where they are in the legislative process and who authored or co-sponsored the legislation—will be published in a way that computers can easily process, and thus can be easily reused by apps and websites.”

Read the complete post here:

And here is the report language:

The Committee request that the Clerk of the House, the Librarian of Congress and the Public Printer work together to make available to the public through Congress.gov or FDsys bulk data downloads of bill status by the beginning of the next Congress.

Congress.gov to replace Thomas this month

Congress.gov will be the sole source for texts of pending and passed legislation, committee reports, congressional floor speeches and cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office beginning Nov. 19, the Library of Congress announced on Friday.