Your Government Transparency “To Do”
Right now, the House and Senate are drafting bills that control how legislative information is made available to the public. The “legislative branch” appropriations bills govern many aspects of life on Capitol Hill, including whether the data about what Congress does is available as a database, or whether it’s released in dribs and drabs.
Many more Americans learn about legislation through sites like WashingtonWatch.com and our friends, GovTrack and OpenCongress, than through Congress’ own THOMAS system, but we have to run complex programs to harvest information from THOMAS. As a result, the data we get is imperfect, delayed, and expensive.
There is a better way.
Four years ago, Congress directed the Library of Congress to examine making the information available to the public all at once—in bulk. But the Library hasn’t really followed through, even while other government agencies are now making information available online in bulk.
It’s time for Congress to get on board.
Four members of Congress hold the keys to making this happen. They are the chairs and ranking members of the relevant appropriations subcommittees.
We need representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Mike Honda (D-CA) and Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and John Hoeven (R-ND) to know that their constituents want better access to legislative information.
If you live in the northeast part of Florida, the southern San Francisco Bay Area, Nebraska, or North Dakota, it’s time to contact your representatives (contact pages at the links above).
And if you know anyone who lives in these areas, please contact them and ask them to get involved.
You can also contact your own representatives and ask them to contact these key members. (It doesn’t do much good to contact people who don’t represent you.)
What you want to ask for is this:
Please make sure that the legislative branch appropriations bill (aka the “leg branch approps bill”) requires the Library of Congress to implement bulk access to THOMAS data within 120 days.
That’s it! “Please put language in the leg branch approps bill that requires the Library of Congress to implement bulk access to THOMAS data within 120 days.”
That’s not too hard to ask, is it? It’s not too hard to do.
We’ll let you know if it happens.
Contact your representatives now! Pass the word to your friends in northeast Florida, the south Bay, Nebraska, and North Dakota!