Spring 2013 Updates

Since the last update, here’s what we’ve been working on. We fixed some major features that hadn’t been working since the start of the 113th Congress in January:

  • Committee meetings are now being tracked again. You can add a committee meeting tracker to your feeds and get email updates from the start page. If you were tracking committee meetings previously, we’re very sorry that you hadn’t been getting any updates about meetings. We’re now tracking House meetings even better than ever thanks to the House’s hugely improved transparency practices.
  • Summaries from Congress’s Congressional Research Service were also missing. After restoring this, you’ll find 3,071 more bill summaries than we had before.
  • Around the same time our loading of state bill information also stopped working. We recently restored it and you can get back to tracking bills in all 50 states (+DC) now.

We also corrected a major mistake:

  • On May 7 we added some amendment details in votes on amendments. Unfortunately, we associated some House votes with the wrong amendment due to the confusing way in which the House publishes vote data. After consulting with staff for the House Clerk we resolved the issue on May 25.

You’ll also find some great new features:

  • Votes on amendments now include more information on the amendment, where available, including the amendment’s sponsor and a short description (as provided by Congress). You can see this on the votes page.
  • Every bill page now has a big “Share on Facebook” button. We hope you’ll use this to keep your network up to date about bills you care about.
  • We also expanded our coverage of bills from 1951-1972 and bill text from 1973-1992 using the U.S. Statutes at Large. We were previously missing some bills since adding this data set earlier in the year.

We’re also playing with two experimental ideas:

  • On some bill pages you’ll see a new Citations tab (example: H.R. 933). This tab lists the citations the bill makes to existing law, and we provide hyperlinks to where you can read that law if you want to try to put the bill in context. Citations to slip laws (i.e. “Public Law ___”) take you to a bill page on GovTrack (for laws enacted since 1951). Citations to the United States Code are grouped by title/part/chapter of the Code and link out to the Cornell Legal Information Institute.
  • We also began offering you a deal: For $5 we’ll hide the advertisements on GovTrack (forever). If you find the ads annoying, or are conscious of your web privacy, you might find it worthwhile.

And some minor updates:

  • We removed the ideology charts from pages for Members of Congress who have not yet sponsored many bills, since the results of the analysis were not very accurate.
  • On the Your Lists page, the items in your lists are now links back to the pages where you found the tracker in the first place.
  • Also on the Your Lists page, creating a new list had a bug. That bug is now fixed.
  • And other minor changes.

For developers:

  • Our API now includes committees and committee membership.
  • The API documentation has been improved a bit.
  • We re-wrote our developer page to provide a better overview of where to find the different ways to access GovTrack’s data.
And don’t forget that GovTrack has two new staff members this year. Here’s what they’re up to:
  • GovTrack staffer Gordon Hemsley is now working on adding bills from 1799-1873 into GovTrack. I can’t wait to see what those were about!
  • Our communications staffer Avi Eilam has been manning our Twitter feed. Follow us to get micro-summaries of select bills as they are introduced!

And I’m going on vacation in June. Let’s hope there are no transparency crises while I’m away!

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4 Comments

  1. I have trackers set for two committees, one House and another Senate. Appears I am not getting updates about either committee. Deleted old trackers for those committees and set new ones, but still nothing. Are my trackers in error somehow or is this feature still buggered? Compliments on GovTrack overall. I much appreciate your site, and my agency relies on it for info about selected bills. But, really wish the committee info would start coming through. Thank you for any advice or assistance. — Michael Meadows

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