This past year was a busy year for us. We’ve made many improvements throughout the site and thanks to users like you we’ll be able to keep the site going into 2017.
You helped us increase our budget
Thanks to users like you who are supporting us with monthly contributions, we increased our operating budget by about 33%! We’ll be putting that to use by keeping GovTrack Insider going and making small site improvements. Our goal is to raise enough to hire one full time staff member (we currently have no full time staff), but we’re still far away from that.
We’ve been in the news
We were in the news many times this year, including a hilarious mention in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a Washington Post endorsement of a congressional candidate, election fact-checking articles, and much more.
We’ve been writing plain-language summaries of bills
In the summer of 2015 we began writing plain-language summaries of as many bills as we could get to, plus special articles on topics of interest. Some of our recent posts by our staff writer Jesse Rifkin include:
- Constitutional amendment proposals in this Congress, an article later linked to by the New York Times.
- Why lone dissenters on bills that passed the House 434-1 voted “no.” (One representative claimed he voted no by mistake!)
- Analyzing the congressional voting records of vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.
- Comparing how Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul voted in the Senate once their presidential bids ended, compared to before.
- Five gun control and mental health bills that could pass post-Orlando.
- Contrasting Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s Senate votes on Wall Street and the financial industry and on fossil fuels.
- We also covered fun bills, like this one that would significantly lower the price of your beer, this one that would lower the price of your concert and sports tickets, this one that would end taxpayer-funded portraits of politicians, and of course we can’t forget the Flamethrowers? Really? Act.
Congress finally gave us the data we’ve been asking for
After 15 years of asking Congress for better data about the status of legislation, Congress finally devised and implemented a new legislative data publication system earlier this year. You can read more about it at my blog post here. It is a big deal that Congress has moved to the 21st century in how they make legislative status data available to us and other data users.
Vote-related new features on GovTrack
We began showing “key votes” on the pages for Members of Congress (like here for retiring senator Harry Reid). The key votes are selected automatically based on a statistical analysis.
We also added some geographic maps of votes for votes in the House of Representatives, using a cartogram so that each congressional district is represented as an equally sized hexagon (example):
And we link to ProPublica’s missed vote explanations site whenever a Member of Congress has an explanation of why they missed a vote.
Site improvements related to bills
You can now react to bills with emjois, like on Facebook, to show what you think about them. You’ll see this at the top of every bill page:
Every bill page now has a link to if.then.fund, our sister site where you can make campaign contributions to Members of Congress that cosponsor bills you support — or to their opponents if you oppose the bill.
We replaced our prognosis scores with scores computed by PredictGov.com. Their predictions about whether or not a bill will be enacted are more accurate than our previous predictions.
We’re pulling in summaries of bills from Wikipedia when we don’t have a summary.
Site improvements related to Representatives and Senators
We completely re-did our congressional district maps, thanks to the help of volunteer Aaron Dennis and the support of mapping company Mapbox, to make our maps cheaper for us to maintain and update.
Earlier this year we added links to Sunlight Foundation’s EmailCongress tool, but we removed the links after the Sunlight Foundation discontinued the tool.
Other site improvements
We improved the page load times throughout the site.
We simplified the site’s design, which makes it easier for us to keep the site operating correctly, and we think it is more friendly in some places.
See you in 2017!