In a new letter to the House Committee on Appropriations, we joined with the Congressional Data Coalition and 17 other organizations to call for increased public access to government data on legislative information. Right now, Congress publishes bill status information on its own website, but doesn’t provide the raw data to the public so websites like GovTrack.us can repackage it in more useful — and transparent — forms. From the letter:
Some of our coalition members offered a path forward in a report submitted to the Task Force in August 2012, in which they recommended that legislative status information, which includes the status of bills, information on cosponsors, and so on be made available to the public in bulk, structured data formats such as XML. Our members have requested this data regularly since 2007, but there is new urgency to our request as THOMAS is phased out this year. To provide an orderly transition from THOMAS to bulk and structured data a conversation must begin now.
Our request is relatively simple, inexpensive, and uncontroversial. Bulk, structured data is a cornerstone of many legislative information products such as House and Senate roll call votes and House and Senate bill text, which all use XML, as well as nearly all of the recent projects already completed by the Task Force. These methods also embody the “four key data practices that support government transparency” identified by a Cato Institute report.