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Legislation 2.0.2 Starting to Gain Momentum

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 19 2009

Remember two years ago when Senator Richard Durbin took the blogosphere and specifically and for a series of open thread discussions about shaping a broadband bill? "Legislation 2.0" got some attention at the time, but then the Durbin staffer who was responsible for shepherding the process reportedly went back to graduate school, and little more was heard of the notion. A couple of legislators have turned to the web to take questions from the public--most notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi at last year's Netroots Nation with "AsktheSpeaker," and a couple of Senators and Representatives who have been going on YouTube's SenateHub and HouseHub to solicit and respond to questions there. But in terms of actually involving the public in substantive input on how Members do their jobs, nada.

Well, something new seems to be taking hold, that we might call "Legislation 2.0.2" because it looks like a restart of the same idea, albeit with somewhat better tools for public input and engagement. First Rep. Mike Honda called for input on redesigning his website and opening up the relationship between citizens and their representatives. Now Senate Claire McCaskill (look, she's on Tumblr!) is asking the public for input on how to do a better job with government contracting oversight, as part of her job as chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. Her staff is using Google Moderator (the same tool used by the Obama transition team on for their "Open for Questions" process) to solicit and sort the committee's priorities. On the site, she writes:

What should our priorities be for the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight?
What hearings would you like to see? What contract or program needs additional oversight? What laws, regulations, and policies need to be changed?

I'll need all the suggestions and support I can get -- I'll draw heavily on your input as we move forward toward a system that better serves the government and the taxpayer.

- Senator Claire McCaskill

So far, 128 people have submitted 77 suggestions and cast 1,282 votes. The top suggestion at the moment is "Examine every military contract and cut over-budget/Cold War-era military projects. Use some of the savings to re-tool plants and re-train workers for more productive industries (i.e. green-collar jobs)."