Senator Dick Durbin is crafting a bill online this week on universal broadband policy. I don't know if this effort is a first of its kind but I think it might well be.
Today I'm writing to invite you to participate in an experiment — an interactive approach to drafting legislation on one of the most significant public policy questions today: What should be America's national broadband strategy? . . . There are two reasons I'm asking for your help and participation. The first is because I think we need more public participation and transparency in the way Congress crafts significant legislation. This is an approach to legislation that has never been tried before. If it's successful — as I believe it will be — it may become the way lawmakers approach drafting bills on other issues like education, health care, and foreign policy.
Now this is lawmaking in the sunlight! No doubt (given the sponsorship of the effort by the folks over at OpenLeft) Sen. Durbin will hear from people from a progressive perspective on the issue but I wouldn't be surprised if a variety of industry reps, lobbyists and public interest groups on all sides of the political spectrum will chime in. I wonder if either side of the debate will hedge their arguments since they will be so public. This is a grand experiment in putting the lobbying process online.
But there's more than this that the senator can do. Beyond seeing the comments of the participants online, I'd sure like know the lobbyists the Senator will meet in his office as the bill is developed, whether he takes political contributions from those who have a financial stake in the outcome. Are there any of the senator's staff now working for the affected industries, or spouse who does?
This is the start of something big, of that I am sure.