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Tag Archive: House

House Approves Sweeping Open Data Standards


At a Friday hearing, the House of Representatives significantly raised the bar on open data by passing a resolution requiring that a wide variety of crucial House legislative information be published online, in open formats, and at permanent predictable URLs. Daniel Schuman covered this on the Sunlight Foundation blog on Friday.

The new standards create a new central website, run by the Clerk of the House, that will host all House bills, resolutions, amendments, and conference reports. These documents will be online on January 1, 2012, and will be in XML.

Beyond that, the standards require committees to post their amendments, votes, hearing notices, which bills and resolutions they're considering, and lots of other documents. The Clerk is charged with building tools for committees to post this information to the new website; in the meantime, committees must post them to their own website, in PDF. Committees are also encouraged to post this information in XML, and "should expect XML formats to become mandatory in the future".

This is hugely valuable information that, to date, has been extremely difficult to discover in a reliable way. To get House legislation, one either needs to scrape (a Sisyphean ordeal), or to rely on the good work of people who've already done it. Committee information is terribly fragmented, and in some cases there is often no way to get it at all (such as committee votes and amendments), short of hiring people to go sit in committee rooms and record what goes on (a practice that forms the basis for a number of business models here in DC). This is the beginning of bringing much needed order to chaos, and sunlight to the legislative process.

These standards demonstrate excellent leadership on the part of the House, and offers a modern vision for how a legislative body should view its responsibilities to the public. The Senate should hear the sound of a gauntlet being thrown. The Committee's action is in keeping with Speaker Boehner's and Majority Leader Cantor's April call for the House Clerk to release legislative data in machine readable formats. It is very gratifying to see this call taken so seriously.

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House Revamps Floor Feed


Yesterday, the House of Representatives massively improved its feed of live updates from the House floor. The House Clerk has been hosting a live floor feed for a long time, but this update breaks out related bills and votes more cleanly, adds times down to the second for each update, and drastically cleans up the HTML of the page.

But most wonderfully, the cleaner HTML doesn't really matter, because they also turned on a live XML feed.

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Sunlight Unveils House Staff Directory (in beta)


Today I’m pleased to announce the release of a House Staff Directory in beta version. It is no secret that congressional staff are the lifeblood of Congress, but identifying the best staffer to speak with about a particular issue is a daunting challenge. The directory empowers the public to better communicate with their elected representatives. In addition to legislative offices, the directory also includes staffers from offices that support House activities. What makes the directory unique?

  • It's free.
  • It's a directory of all House employees, including those who provide legislative support to the functioning of Congress, with data no more than 6 months old.
  • You can perform complex searches by staff title, political party, quarter or state and download that information into a spreadsheet.
  • You can search over multiple quarters to see the employment trail for a particular staffer.

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