Sunlight on Model Legislation Tracking

Aug. 20, 2012, 2:54 a.m.

Model legislation, sometimes called suggested legislation, is created by a variety of organizations with the intent of affecting policy decisions usually on the state level. Groups like the Counsel on State Governments and the Uniform Law Commission are nonpartisan groups that write model bills on a number of topics and then offer it to policy makers to help them address important issues. Special interest groups do this as well, except their suggested legislation is usually created to benefit their mission. The American Legislative Exchange Council, for instance, in a conservative group that creates legislation in the interest of their corporate members. Good or bad, this type of influence can be very difficult to track because legislation does not include information about who originally wrote a bill or what organization might have prompted it.

Enter Superfastmatch: an open source project that finds overlap between documents that Sunlight uses to detect when legislation is migrating between statehouses or from interest groups and into law. The technology behind Superfastmatch was adapted from a project of the Media Standards Trust called Churnalism that sought to uncover when UK journalists copy-and-paste press releases into their published stories.

Our interest in tracking model legislation is there is transparency of who pushes legislation and the money and influence behind their actions. Below is some of our coverage: