Hi everyone! Your GovTrackers Jesse, Amy, Ben, and Josh have been busy since our last update in 2016 adding new information and functionality to the site. Here’s what’s new in 2017. Check it out!
New Legislative Information on GovTrack
Just last week we launched a new database of congressional misconduct, containing criminal and ethics investigations of Members of Congress, such as sexual assault and bribery. You can find it at the link above and on pages for Members of Congress that have been the subject of an investigation, as in the case of Rep. Gianforte shown in this image:
Tracking Provisions of Bills with a new Text Incorporation Analysis
Late last year we launched a new analysis of legislative text that follows provisions as they are moved into large omnibus bills. You’ll now see more information on bill pages when a bill’s provisions have been inserted into a bill that was enacted, or if an enacted bill drew from provisions in other bills (at the bottom of this screenshot):
You can also use a new “enacted — including by incorporation” filter in the advanced search to see bills that have had most of their provisions enacted via other bills.
We’ve also rounded up some scorecards put out by advocacy organizations, from Americans for Prosperity to the ACLU, and listed the scores Members of Congress received from these organizations on their pages on GovTrack. You can see where it is on the first screenshot in this post, above. Scorecards were added to GovTrack a few months ago.
We’re now linking out to committee reports in bill status time-lines (example):
Committee reports are an excellent source of information about the purpose of legislation. Click Read Report to get it. The reports are also listed on committee pages on the site. We’re also showing some committee meetings in the bill time-lines now too.
Making Congress More Accessible
Is it ah-MO-day or ah-mo-DEE? This week we added a pronunciation guide for the name of every Member of Congress appearing at the top of every page for Members of Congress. You can see it in the first screenshot above in this post, or head over to Rep. Mark Amodei’s page to see how his name is properly pronounced.
Hablas Español? We’ve added a translate button at the top of every page to see GovTrack.us in Spanish:
The translation is automatic and is provided by Google Translate, so it’s not perfect, but we hope this helps.
Screen Reader Improvements
We also made some improvements to how our pages are coded so that they hopefully work better in screen readers for users with visual disabilities. If you have a visual disability, let us know how we can further improve the site.
On our committees page, we’re now listing each committee’s jurisdiction so you have more of an idea about what the committee actually does:
New Ways You Can Use GovTrack
Facebook Messenger Alerts to Call Your Reps
In partnership with Call Party, we launched a new way you can stay in touch with your Members of Congress. We’ll send you a message on Facebook Messenger when there are issues in Congress for you to call about, and we’ll walk you through exactly how to dial your representative and senator and what to say.
Say “hi” to us on Messenger to get started. We’ll reply (automatically) once you say hello.
Record your opinion on a five-point scale
In partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, we created a new tool for you to save your opinion on legislation so you can come back to it later:
You can choose on a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree, and you can enter notes about the legislation. Both your opinion and your notes are private – we won’t share them with anyone. You can find all of the bills you entered your opinion or notes on on the new What You Have a Position On page.
We’re Tweeting Bill Status Updates
We also began tweeting bill status updates and summaries of the previous day’s legislative activity every hour on the hour, in addition to our other tweets with links to bill summaries, occasional live-tweeting of hearings, and some commentary.
Follow us on Twitter to get these updates and more.
Some Other New Pages on GovTrack
There are a few other new pages on GovTrack:
- Congressional Procedures, a collection of Congressional Research Service reports about how Congress works
- How a Bill Becomes a Law
- How Laws Are Made, covering aspects of United States law that are beyond how a bill becomes a law
- What is Congress Browsing? See what pages on GovTrack have been visited by congressional staff.
- What the first Congress of 1789 can teach the Congress of 2017
- A series on President Trump’s Nominees that came from Congress
- Could the first new military branch since 1947 be established this year?, a summary of part of the National Defense Authorization Act
- We’ve posted around 100 summaries of bills this year, and we’ve also been posting selected summaries of votes.
Some Design Improvements
Some Pages Got a New Look
As you’ve already seen above, the bill pages and the pages for Members of Congress got a refresh this year, as did the homepage.
Email Updates Are Improved on Mobile Devices
Our email updates now fit better on smaller screens, and they have thumbnails next to tracked events now too!
More Citations are Linked in Bill Text
We also improved our bill text to hyperlink more citations. See the “81 Fed. Reg. 93066” link in the bill text below:
Behind the Scenes
In the News
We were cited in news articles dozens of times this year, often fact-checking the number of laws President Trump claimed he signed. (He’s currently signed the second fewest bills of any President’s first year going at least as far back as President Eisenhower.)
This summer we also adopted a charter to clearly lay out our objectives as an organization.
Discontinued Bulk Data and API
To focus more on the parts of GovTrack that are most needed we discontinued our bulk data and API, used by researchers and app developers, when Congress began its summer recess.
We also published what we called our first diversity report, which is a way for us to be held accountable to both reaching a diverse audience and also hiring a diverse staff.
This year we added a new staff member, bringing our team to four part-time staffers: Jesse Rifkin, our reporter; Ben Hammer, our partnerships manager; Amy West, our editor and social media manager; and Joshua Tauberer, GovTrack’s founder and technician. We’ve also had help from some short-term helpers this year. Thanks to our team!
Finally, thanks to YOU.
Between our monthly supporters and those that sent us a one-time tip, we’ve been able to expand our operations a little and bring you all of the new features, explainers, and tweets you’ve seen over the last year. Without our users we’d have no reason to keep the lights on, but without our supporters the light would be very dim indeed. If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our work by clicking one of the preceding links.