Four Sunlight tools to help you follow legislation

A set of 5 different binoculars of varying sizes arranged on table.
Image via Flickr user jlcwalker.

As we continue to honor Sunshine Week 2014, we think it’s a great opportunity to go through some of our tools that can help anyone freely track legislation even when this week’s many events are a distant memory.

Much of Sunlight’s work revolves around the idea of freely connecting citizens to information from and about government. Imagine you are trying to keep tabs on the progress of an impressive piece of legislation, such as the Transparency in Government Act introduced last week by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. These four tools will help you get more information about the context of the bill, follow the actions of the sponsor, get alerts for actions taken related to your interests, find similar bills on the state level and much more.


Scout is a tool to create customized email or text alerts on what Congress is doing around an issue or a specific bill, as well as bills in the state legislature and federal regulations. If you searched for “Transparency in Government Act” in the main search bar, you will see results including the legislation introduced in Congress, a speech recently given by Quigley, bills with similar titles in state legislatures, mentions in federal regulations and more. Click through to any of those results and click the “Create Alert” button to get notifications whenever similar results come through. Watch the tutorial for an more in-depth walkthrough in just five minutes.

An iPhone showing a new alert from the Sunlight Foundation's Congress app with text above it that says "Push notifications for the bills and legislators you follow."

Congress mobile apps

Use the Congress apps for both iOS and Android to stay up to date on congressional activity no matter where you go. The free apps are a directory of members of Congress, a feed of the latest bills introduced and another way to get notifications when there’s a vote or other action relating to your interests.


OpenCongress is a website that allows anyone to follow legislation in Congress, from bill introduction to floor votes. You can quickly learn more about issues, connect with others who share similar views and send a message to your representative. To continue on the same example, here’s the page for the Transparency in Government Act and here’s the profile of Quigley. The site also allows users to register to get updates and join groups of other users, find bills organized by issue and follow the feed of latest votes.

Open States

Last but certainly not least, Open States is a project to collect legislative data from all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. After a many year process of getting all the information from state capitals into a common format, it’s now easy (and free!) for you to search across states for similar bills or dig into your state to learn more about who represents you, what legislation is active and much more. Learn more about Open States in this brief video.