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Re: Legislation on the web...

From: John Wonderlich <johnwonderlich@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 10:27:17 -0400
Message-ID: <b5bba8190809100727p4f3e506et8a73bcf23a2d6c6a@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Novak, Kevin" <KevinNovak@aia.org>
Cc: richard.murphy@gsa.gov, "Peter Krantz" <peter.krantz@gmail.com>, public-egov-ig@w3.org
Hi Kevin,

In case it's helpful, I've appended at the end of this email the document
that Daniel Bennett prepared on the "legislative handles" system for
permanent bill URLs, which he has sent to the Open House Project google
group <http://groups.google.com/group/openhouseproject>.  Manually entering
the new URLs works for existing legislation, although there aren't yet links
to autogenerated stable URLs from THOMAS pages yet.

As far as I know, the current situation with funding for THOMAS upgrades
stands with the Legislative Branch Approps subcommittee tentatively
approving language in the report for the current years approps directing
THOMAS to report back on the feasibility of data level access to legislative
information, though this is bogged down in the current approps situation
(with Congress expected to pass a Continuing Resolution rather than approps
bills).  Here's Rob Pierson from Honda's office discussing the report


And here's the document that Daniel Bennett prepared on "legislative

Legislative Handles
 (which can be used as Tags/Metadata/Citations)

LIS announces Legislative Handles, a new persistent URL service for creating
links to legislative documents. Legislative Handles are a convenient way to
cite legislation from either LIS (http://www.congress.gov) or THOMAS (
http://thomas.loc.gov). With a simple syntax, Handles make it easy to link
to legislation while writing emails or coding web pages.

Handles are web addresses that do not change over time. The goal of the
Handles project is to minimize the impact of any future search engine or
database changes by providing persistent predictable links. The current link
structure for LIS and THOMAS has not changed. See How to Build Links to
Thomas <http://www.congress.gov/help/THOMAS_links/links.html> for more
information about the current structure.

*How to create a Legislative Handle*

To create a Legislative Handle, start with
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/ followed by the collection name,
legislation. Add a period and the congress number,110. Finally, add a
period, the bill abbreviation and the bill number. Add a -lis to link to
LIS. Without the suffix, the Handle will resolve to THOMAS.


To learn the specifics for building any Handle, see Syntax below.

*How Legislative Handles work*

A Handle is a form of uniform resource identifier (URI) that resolves to a
uniform resource locator (URL). As a stable pointer, the Handle will not
change even if the underlying URL changes over time or the object moves to a
new directory. The Global Handle Registry(TM) is run by CNRI (Corporation
for National Research Initiatives), making it possible to resolve Handles
from any computer on any network. The actual page URL, not the Handle, is
shown in the browser address bar when the page is displayed.

Handles are being introduced in stages and will cover past congresses and
additional legislative document types. See Schedule below. Handles are
pre-registered, meaning they are created in bulk. The maximum value of the
Handle registered is identified on the schedule.


General Syntax - - Legislation (BSS) Syntax

*GENERAL SYNTAX for any Legislative Handle *
 Handle Server
http://hdl.loc.gov /
 Naming Authority
loc.uscongress /
 Identifier - Collection
legislation .
 Identifier - Item
110hconres4544 -
 Identifier - Suffix

   1. The Handle server is the existing proxy server at the Library of
   2. The naming authority has two parts. The primary naming authority (loc)
   is managed by the Library of Congress and the secondary naming authority
   (loc.uscongress) is managed by CRS.
   3. The collection identifier is the legislative document or database. In
   addition to legislation, we anticipate having Handles for the congressional
   record, nominations and others.
   4. The item identifier uniquely describes one item in a collection. It
   contains a series of subparts that logically divide the content within the
   collection. The unique identifier syntax depends on the collection.
   5. The suffix indicates whether the Handle will resolve to THOMAS or to
   LIS. Without a suffix, the Handle will resolve to THOMAS.

*Handle punctuation*

   - Numbers will *not* use zero padding.
   - A slash will be used as a delimiter between
   - the Handle server and the naming authority *hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress*
   - the naming authority and the item identifier *
   - A period will be used as a delimiter between
   - subdivisions of the naming authority *loc.uscongress*
   - the collection and the item *legislation.110hconres4544*
   - repeated occurences of a numbers in the item identifier *treaty.110.34*
   - A dash will be used as a delimiter before the suffix *-lis*

 *LEGISLATION SYNTAX (Bill Summary and Status database)*
http:// hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.###( s | sjres | sconres |
sres | hr | hjres | hconres | hres )###-lis

   - The collection name, legislation, is followed by a period and the
   Congress number.
   - The bill type abbreviation (s | sjres | sconres | sres | hr | hjres |
   hconres | hres) is followed immediately by the bill number.



On Wed, Sep 10, 2008 at 9:13 AM, Novak, Kevin <KevinNovak@aia.org> wrote:

>  Peter and All,
> Having managed Thomas for four years as one of my many duties at the
> Library of Congress I wanted to chime in.
> Thomas is a very old system and presents many challenges with exposing,
> managing, and making accessible all of its information. The information and
> documents coming from the House side of Congress is coming in via XML. The
> Senate had not yet at the time I left LOC decided on an XML standard for the
> documents they produce and therefore doesn't offer the accessibility or
> opportunity for different displays, etc.
> As John may remember (given we had share some information with the Sunlight
> Foundation and Congressman Honda's office, we had a plan in place to begin
> major changes to the THOMAS infrastructure, how it communicates and manages
> data, and how the interface/presentation layer is demonstrated/made
> available. Of course the challenge was getting the funding to move forward
> with the plan.
> One item that most are not aware of is that the data in THOMAS originates
> at the Government Printing Office given how the Senate and House, per
> policy, are required to document and communicate their activities/bills and
> the like. All permanent identifiers to the original document reside there. I
> am surprised to hear that links are changing. Not that I can do anything
> directly about it now that I am not there anymore but am curious as to what
> links to documents are not permanent.
> Chris Testa who is the eGov IG subchair for web standards was the direct
> manager responsible for THOMAS and may be able to provide more insight.
> Kevin
> *Kevin Novak*
> *Vice President, Integrated Web Strategy and Technology*
> The American Institute of Architects
> 1735 New York Avenue, NW
> Washington, DC 20006
> *Voice:*   202-626-7303
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> *Email:*    kevinnovak@aia.org
> *Website:* www.aia.org
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> *From:* public-egov-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:
> public-egov-ig-request@w3.org] *On Behalf Of *richard.murphy@gsa.gov
> *Sent:* Tuesday, September 09, 2008 9:12 AM
> *To:* johnwonderlich@gmail.com
> *Cc:* Peter Krantz; public-egov-ig@w3.org
> *Subject:* Re: Legislation on the web...
> John & All:
> I don't think this precisely fits your criteria, but you may be interested
> in a few OWL-DL ontologies my team maintains.
> 1. The US-Privacy Act of 1974 here ...
> http://www.osera.gov/privacy.owl
> 2. The Federal Enterprise Architecture Reference Models
> http://www.osera.gov/owl/2004/11/FEA/fea.owl
> Best wishes,
> Rick
> office: 202-501-9199
> cell: 202-557-1604
> -----public-egov-ig-request@w3..org wrote: -----
> To: "Peter Krantz" <peter.krantz@gmail.com>
> From: "John Wonderlich" <johnwonderlich@gmail.com>
> Sent by: public-egov-ig-request@w3.org
> Date: 09/07/2008 01:28PM
> cc: public-egov-ig@w3.org
> Subject: Re: Legislation on the web...
> I recently did a survey of some legislator driven efforts in the US
> (inserted below).  On a broader level, several sites have grown here to add
> value to the Library of Congress THOMAS <http://thomas.loc.gov/> page (the
> official source of legislation), which has many notable shortfalls, such as
> links that expire.
> GovTrack <http://www.govtrack.us/> does the main work of scraping and
> re-presenting, allowing other sites such as OpenCongress.org to focus on
> usability and social features.  The source code for both is available.
> One chapter of the Open House Project report was about THOMAS upgrades, and
> is available here<http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/the-open-house-project-report/3-legislation-database/>
> .
> (blog post<http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/2008/08/11/public-legislative-participation/>below)
> Public Legislative Participation
> August 11th, 2008 by John Wonderlich · 2 Comments
> The next list I'd like to tackle is *legislative participation*.
> A number of innovative approaches have appeared in various legislative
> bodies, inviting public participation in what is arguably the most public of
> all processes: the creation of public policy.  While these projects vary in
> scope and effect, they all have granted a new level of access and
> authenticity to public deliberation, recognizing the public as a capable
> partner in the process of legislating.
> These are all legislative projects operating with official government
> sponsorship.  While there is a great deal of valuable work done tracking
> legislation and developing policy outside government, and also pioneering
> work developing in Congress for communicating with constituents, I'm
> focusing here on officially sponsored legislative participation.
>    - The Open House Project <http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/2008/08/>launched with Speaker Pelosi's endorsement, developing a transparency reform
>    agenda for Congress.
>    - The Irish House of Parliament, the Oirechtas, held an involved
>    "e-consultation" project<http://www.econsultation.ie/ec/econswip.nsf/%28webstartpage%29/5?opendocument>on their broadcasting bill.  From their site:
>     - "The consulters, comprising of members of the Joint Committee of
>       Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Office of the Houses of
>       the Oireachtas e-Consultation Working Group, viewed the e-Consultation pilot
>       as a significant departure from previous practice as it involved a dedicated
>       website which allowed for the posting of submissions in a structured manner
>       as well as a discussion forum and it constituted an attempt to communicate
>       directly with the public on legislation and not just target traditional
>       'stakeholders'."
>    - Rep. Honda☼ posted legislation<http://honda.house.gov/legislation/2008/stem.shtml>and accepted public commentary on their proposed STEM Act.
>    - Rep. Kuhl☼ launched a "Fix Washington<http://kuhl.house.gov/blog/index.php/2008/05/16/fix-washington-project/>"
>    project, where citizens proposed legislative priorities.
>    - Senator Lieberman☼ developed the first E-government Act<http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/g-4-act.html>of 2002 in conjunction with a public
>    Web site<http://web.archive.org/web/20010603050357rn_1/www.senate.gov/%7Egov_affairs/egov/>that collected priorities and suggestions.  From the accompanying report
>    language:
> o    On May 18, 2000, Senators Lieberman and Thompson launched an on-line
> `experiment in interactive legislation', a website that sought public
> comments on 44 topics related to possible measures that Congress could take
> to advance the cause of e-government. Topics were organized into
> categories, such as `centralized leadership', `funding innovations', and
> `digital democracy: citizen access and participation,' and ranged from
> `centralized online portal' to `interoperability standards' to `G-Bay':
> enhanced online distribution of federal government surplus property.' For
> each of the topics, a short discussion described the status of current
> efforts and the `New Idea', or ideas, being offered for consideration.
> Visitors to the website could then submit their comments on the subject, and
> read views that had been submitted by others. Nearly 1,000 comments were
> submitted, approximately one half of which were posted on the website after
> being reviewed by Committee staff.13
> [Footnote] Comments were submitted by private citizens, academicians,
> federal employees, and even federal agencies. OMB also responded to the
> website by soliciting views from federal agencies; OMB officials then
> consolidated agencies' responses and presented them to the Committee as a
> single document. Opinions, additional information, and alternative proposals
> submitted over the website proved helpful as Senator Lieberman formulated
> his electronic government legislation.
> [Footnote] 13Comments were reviewed primarily for appropriateness and
> relevance; Committee staff did not favor any particular viewpoint in
> deciding which submissions to post. The website was intended to educate the
> public about the potential of e-government, to solicit input and
> information on the many topics being considered for possible legislation,
> and to serve as both an experiment and an example of how the Internet could
> be used to make government processes more accessible to the public.
>    - Senator Dick Durbin☼ held public discussions on Open Left<http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=318>and
>    Redstate<http://archive.redstate.com/stories/policy/what_should_we_include_in_our_national_broadband_strategy>,
>    asking the question: "What Should We Include in our National Broadband
>    Strategy?"
>    - Politicopia is a public wiki, set up in conjunction with the Utah
>    State Legislature's Rules Committee.
>    - I'm looking for any other examples.  Others that sort of fit:
>     - In a sense, the California initiative process<http://www.cainitiative.org/>involves citizen participation, although it bypasses more than it augments
>       the legislative process.
>       - The Peer to Patent Project <http://www.peertopatent.org/> is
>       probably the best designed example of substantive public involvement,
>       although it isn't legislative.
>    - Any other suggestions?
> On Sun, Sep 7, 2008 at 1:19 PM, Peter Krantz <peter.krantz@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> Dear egov-ig group members,
> Is there anyone else that is involved in a project that aims to put
> your national legislation on the web? We are currently half way
> through a project where we use a lot of W3C standards/technology (e.g.
> RDFa, OWL, RDFS, XHTML et al) to put swedish legislation online in a
> better shape than what exists today.
> I was thinking that projects of this type would be similar (from a
> technology perspective) in many countries and it would be interesting
> to share ideas.
> Kind regards,
> Peter Krantz

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Received on Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:27:54 UTC

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