In this third segment on unveiling opengovernment.org and how you can use it to track legislative issues, we are going to talk more about issue areas. What are the most prevalent issues in your state? Do you know the bills about these issues? I took a look at issues in Texas, which range from Campaign Finance and Election (with 425 bills introduced), to guns (with 58 bills proposed).
In summary, the ‘Issues’ section highlights bill subjects attached to legislation and makes them easier to understand and access by using legislative data from Open States Project. Plowing further into the Texas Campaign Finance and Elections issues, we chose HR 197 as a random bill to follow. A quick look at the bill shows that it focuses on suspending limitations on conference committee jurisdiction and was sponsored by Rep. Jim Pitts. To recap, as OpenGovernment.org primarily lets you track state legislature that is important to you, each time you navigate to a bill, you will see a roundup of the latest action taken on the bill including any news and blog coverage and any twitter mentions.
An interesting thought to explore is whether the total number of bills proposed (or passed) about certain issues is indicative of how legislators in a particular state feel about those issues. But what every concerned citizen should pay attention to is the trends in the types of bills being introduced in their state. Yes, the legislators craft the language, but you can provide your input in how you want to be governed — by contacting your representative and making sure that they are representing your best interests and asking them to sponsor legislation on issues that you care about.
And if you want to critically analyze the ratio of bills introduced to those that are actually passed, you can use an example of the ‘Crime issues’ in Texas. There are 1086 bills. You can get a sense of how may have been signed by the governor just by browsing through. And if you’re a blogger seeking to connect with your communities on legislative issues in your area, Opengovernment.org provides background information on issues in the bills you are tracking while sharing an informative perspective on your state legislature, with your audience.
Have you had a chance to play around with Opengovernment.org? Share your impressions in the comments section.
Next week, we will highlight campaign contributions and how special interests play a role in state legislation.