The House Rules Committee took a big step for open and accountable government today: House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, announced that the committee would publish the text of the House Rules and eventually other related documents in an easy-to-use and analyze XML format that will be available for download on Github.
“Technology plays an important role in our daily lives, and it is necessary that the House keep up with the most efficient and effective ways to provide information about Congressional activities,” said Sessions in the announcement.
Releasing the rules as data as opposed to hard-to-parse PDF documents will allow organizations like the Sunlight Foundation the ability to integrate this data into our tools, track changes to the rules and educate the public about vital functions of our democracy. The Rules Committee plays an essential role how the House functions and conducts its business by managing the business of the House floor (like which bills get a vote and when) on behalf of the House speaker.
According to Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, this move has positive implications for the public and private sector alike, saying, “As Congressional information is increasingly standardized in open formats, technology companies are building new tools that make it easier to work on bills, amendments, and, today, the Rules of the House.”
Chairman Sessions and his office worked with Subcommittee on Rules and Organization of the House Chairman Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, the U.S. Government Publishing Office, House Parliamentarian Tom Wickham and Clerk of the House Karen Lehman Haas to implement these changes.
Additionally, the Rules Committee will even make the Constitution available in this format.
This is just one more positive step in the road the entire House of Representatives has been walking for some time now. Starting with the bulk data task force, the House has established a history of commitment to releasing valuable information to the public in a variety of useful formats.
We’re thrilled that the Rules Committee is embracing this movement and can’t wait to see what they have planned next.