A new initiative to track, learn and share state legislative information was hatched last year when Open Government.org launched its website. Created by the Participatory Politics Foundation in partnership with Sunlight Foundation, OpenGovernment.org is a free and open-source public resource website for government transparency and civic engagement at the state and local levels. So far, portals for legislative data have been created for six states including California , Louisiana , Maryland , Minnesota , Texas and Wisconsin with plans to expand to all 50 states.
One of the most viewed bills on OpenGovernment.org so far has been SB 11 – the controversial bill about Wisconsin’s state finances and collective bargaining for public employees. The fact that it has been viewed 2,184 times is indicative of the public’s interest in learning more about the specifics of legislation that will affect them. Using state legislative data from Sunlight’s Open States Project, the site lets state-focused activists track updates to the bill, read aggregated news and blogger updates, and contact their state representatives.
To illustrate how OpenGovernment.org provides an interactive bill tracking experience, let’s take a look at an on-going bill. SB 22 , another Wisconsin bill proposes the creation of a Charter School Authorizing Board that provides additional charter school authorizers while eliminating the limit on the number of pupils who may attend virtual charter schools. Education bloggers interested in seeing any actions taken on the bill, can view the number of votes on it since it was introduced in February this year to its current status. You can also check out their free and open-source Miro Community for videos on various branches of state legislature to embed in your blog post.
For political bloggers and issue-based organizations, OpenGovernment.org offers a great way to stay current and updated on a given piece of legislation. If you’re a developer and interested in adding data to the site for the benefit of the public, check out OpenStates.org to learn more about what’s underneath the hood of OpenGovernment.org.
And if you are still wondering why or how you should get involved, why not take a look at the perks of joining the OpenGovernment.org platform:
Badges: Still looking for cooler ways to be involved? How about you check out OpenGovernment.org’s state badges promoting your use of open data with easy-to-embed code that you can use on either your news site or blog.
Email list: You can also sign up to keep up-to-date with developments this resource as they roll out to all 50 U.S. state legislatures and more than a dozen major cities.
Open Government Google group: If you prefer keeping the conversation going in the developers forum, you can join the Open Government Google group
This is the first of a weekly series on OpenGovernment.org and how you can use it to make state legislatures more interactive. Next week, we will take a look at members of state legislatures and how you can contact them.