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House To Make Legislative Documents More Accessible To the Public On The Web

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, December 16 2011

The House of Representatives will make many of its key legislative documents available in an open data format online as of January 1, the Committee House on Administration announced Friday.

“With the adoption of these standards, for the first time, all House bills, resolutions and legislative documents will be available in XML in one centralized location," said Rep. Dan Lungren, (R-Calif.), in a Friday press statement. Lungren is the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

"Providing easy access to legislative information increases constituent feedback and ultimately improves the legislative process," he said.

The documents will all be accessible at a centralized web site maintained by the House Clerk. "Open formats" are defined as formats that are "widely available" and that allow indexing. The documents will be formatted in XML schema maintained at http://xml.house.gov.

The full list of documents that will be made available is available at this link.

The House Rules Committee currently mandates that all this information must be available on the web at least three days before any action takes place on the House floor. The same rule will apply to the publication of these documents in XML, said Salley Wood, the House Administration Committee's spokesperson.

Transparency advocates have been calling for Congress to make such a move for a long time. Making the data available in machine-readable format allows much quicker and better public access to legislation, and can be interpreted and presented in a more useful manner through apps on the web and on mobile devices.

"Three cheers to Chairman Dan Lungren, Ranking Member Bob Brady, members of the committee, and its staff for moving this important issue forward," wrote the Sunlight Foundation's Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman in a blog post on the news. "The Senate could do well by following this example, as could legislative support agencies like the Library of Congress and GPO."