Global Legislative Openness Week represents an amazing opportunity for advocates of open data and open government from all corners of the globe to find common cause in increasing access to the data their legislatures create. All around the world, people agree that open legislative data is fundamental to open government. We need full access to information about bills under discussion, votes taken, and legislatures’ membership and committees in order to meaningfully participate in these central institutions of representative democracy.
Here in the U.S., we are lucky to have a number of examples of governments across the 50 states that are doing a good job making their legislative data available for online viewing, analysis and reuse. This is important, because open legislative data directly improves accessibility for individuals and supports the kind of reuse that can provide us all with better solutions. However, we still have quite a ways to go. As our Open States report card demonstrates, while a number of states are doing a good job getting some of their data online and using formats that maximize their utility, many others are not yet there.
As a way to help spread the word about the significance of open legislative data (and hopefully to spur some change as well!), we have been circulating a letter to ask U.S. state legislatures to make several important legislative datasets available online and in open, structured form. We’ve found support from dozens of advocates and organizations so far. You’re very welcome to join us!
Open legislative data is far from the only piece of the puzzle to address — as D.C. Councilmember David Grosso pointed out in the Free Law Founders’ Twitter chat this morning:
— David Grosso (@cmdgrosso) September 19, 2014
Here at the Sunlight Foundation, we could not agree more.
However, we also believe that one of the first steps to achieving these goals is improving access to the information we need to know who decides, how they decide and what they decide as legitimate representatives of our democratic system.
If you agree, please get in touch with me at EShaw[at]sunlightfoundation[dot]com and ask to sign on to our letter! We will be sending it out to all U.S. state legislatures on Monday, Sept. 22, so please don’t delay if you’d like to be included.