Legislative Project Ideas for Coders and Non-Coders

I thought it would be useful to identify legislative data projects in advance of the House’s annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference and #Hack4Congress, a congressional hackathon we are co-hosting with our friends the OpenGov Foundation. I have written about some ideas previously, and others are newly published or elaborations. Not all are mine, but I like them all.

{Update: a bunch more ideas are available here.}

Requiring tech savvy

  • A robust roll-call vote comparison tool (more: see vote comparison tool)
  • An easy-but-smart search of the Congressional Record for member statements on a topic (more: see congressional record search)
  • A customizable daily or weekly email with all congressional hearings and floor votes, including committees and subcommittees, which at a click of a button would be added to your calendar (more: see open up draft legislation; also GovTrack’s webpage)
  • Congressional Research Service: CRS Report freshness ratings (more)
  • Congressional Research Service: One-stop source for Congressional Research Service reports (portal to search web) (more)
  • Congressional Research Service: Build a tool that allows congressional offices to receive requests to publish CRS reports and to host the publication of those reports; bonus if it allows the Member office to publish a list of all reports that a constituent/the public could request
  • A means to transform draft (pre-introduction) bills from PDF to a format that supports easy comparison, markup, and public discussion (more: see open up draft legislation)
  • A user-friendly webpage for the federal law website LegisLink (more: see federal law online)
  • Build a dashboard that reports on all House and Senate personal and committee websites that indicates whether they are SSL (HTTPS) compliant
  • Expand Capitol Bells to the Senate (see: Ted Henderson about Capitol Bells)
  • Build a Congressional Correspondence Tracker that allows Member offices to track all communications, automatically publish and thread letters and responses to the public (with redactions as appropriate)
  • Transform the Congressional Record into structured data
  • Transform the Constitution Annotated into structured data (pull it out of PDFs) (more: see public the Constitution Annotated as data)
  • Transform the entirety of House and Senate expenditure reports into structured data (CSVs) (more: see Sunlight blogpost and 1-pager)

For everyone (coders and non-coders)

  • Transform the Rules of the House of Representatives from PDF to TXT (or DOCX); ideally set up to reflect the organization of the document (e.g. indentations) (more: House Rules)
  • Transform the Rules of the Senate from HTML to something with proper indentations
  • Transform House and Senate Committee Rules from PDFs to TXT (or DOCX); ideally set up to reflect the organization of the document (e.g. indentations) (see: Rules of the Senate)
  • Build a wiki that links to or contains all the non-PDF versions of Chamber and Committee Rules (more: House committeesSenate committees)
  • Check House and Senate Committee websites to see if they work as HTTPS and compile as a list on a wiki (make a table)

{ Liked this? You may also like Learning from #Hack4Congress and Electronic Toolbox for Congress }

— Written by Daniel Schuman