Wikipedia:WikiProject United States Federal Government Legislative Data

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This page provides support to Wikipedia editors who want to develop articles related to legislation in the United States Congress as it makes laws within the Federal Government of the United States. This project is an outgrowth of a conference in March 2013 in Washington DC: Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Legislative Data Workshop

Purpose of this page[edit]

This page was originally created because the Cato Institute, a United States-based think tank, was exploring options for sharing data on the United States legislative process and indiscriminately developing all Wikipedia articles on United States federal laws. The rationale behind the Cato Institute or other organizations engaging Wikipedia in this way is in recognizing that Wikipedia is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, source of WP:NPOV information on US federal law. Because of this, Cato is a stakeholder in the quality of this information as are all other organizations which have an interest in providing resources on US law.

Saturday, June 8, 2013, we're having a Legislative Data Meetup, following up on the Cato Institute's Legislative Data Workshop in March. On the agenda: progress we have made so far and what work we will have ahead of us. 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM.

Cato Institute building in Washington, D.C.

The Cato Institute's project to produce enhanced XML markup of federal legislation is well under way, and they hope to use these data to make more information available to the public about how bills affect existing law, federal agencies, and spending, for example. They’ve been marking up the bills introduced in the current Congress with “enhanced” XML that allows computers to automatically gather more of the meaning found in legislation. This project fundamentally rooted in transparency and building bridges among politically diverse organizations. Cato is seeking to produce data and systems that will broadly appeal to organizations and individuals across the political system: something that makes it easier to compile basic factual information in a transparent way.

For commentary on this, please visit the following:

Developing legislative content for Wikipedia[edit]

Given the goal of producing articles about legislation that can be updated automatically and systematically with legislative data, we offer these suggestions for the organization of legislative issues on Wikipedia and for writing articles about the bills in Congress.

Organizing articles about public issues and legislation[edit]

Many articles about public policy issues come into existence and grow because of importance and public interest in a particular bill. If the issue isn't settled in a single Congress, however, the article's references to that bill will fall out of date even if much of the material in the article is relevant and accurate. In our early work, we have found, for example, that the current (March 2013) versions of articles on CISPA and the House budget refer to the past year's legislation. ('External' links are to March 2013 versions to illustrate this point.)

To remedy this, we recommend writing about public issues and the legislation that relates to them in a hierarchical way, separating the general issue and the legislative proposal from the specific bill(s) that relate to them. We'll describe the hierarchy starting from the top.

Given the importance of the issue area, it may be appropriate to have a top-level article at a very high level of generality. "Cybersecurity legislation in the United States" might be a good example. (There is an article called Cyber-security regulation that is a good high-level overview, if slightly dated for this rapidly changing area.)

The next level down might be an article on a general proposal, such as CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which is one of several proposed federal statutes. Now, CISPA started as a single proposal, but it did not pass in the 112th Congress and has been reintroduced in the 113th Congress. The (current) article about CISPA is about the issue and the bill at the same time, even though the original CISPA bill is dead. This must be confusing to readers.

Articles about specific bills could complete the hierarchy, discussing things specific to those bills such as sponsor/cosponsors, committee referral, hearings, differences from other versions, key points in the debates about them, votes on them, their status at any given time, and so on.

This hierarchy - with separate articles for each of 1) the broadest issue area, 2) the general proposal, and 3) the specific bills - seems like the best way to articulate for readers how public policy issues are handled.

It will take a lot of work to untangle current articles that interlock given public policy issues and the bills (now dead) that dealt with them in the past. Going forward, we recommend maintaining separation among broad issues, legislative proposals, and the individual bills that address them. If a bill is important, it may merit as many as three articles: one about the bill itself, one about the proposal it contains, and one about broader issue it tries to address. Hopefully, articles about the higher-level topics exist already!

Proposed layout[edit]

You can use this proposed sample layout to create a Wikipedia article on U.S. federal legislation:

Category page[edit]

If the article you are writing is about a piece of (proposed or enacted) legislation from the 113th United States Congress (Jan 2013-Jan 2015), then you can add it to our category, named "United States proposed federal legislation of the 113th Congress".

Targets for development[edit]

To do[edit]

Add tasks here, you can help!

Technical

Content

  1. Bills coming to the House and Senate floors are likely to be notable, justifying articles about them. You can see bills heading to the House floor at house.docs.gov. The Hill's Floor Action blog also weekly summarizes legislation coming to the floors of the House and Senate.
  2. Develop the article layout page
  3. Write articles about legislation using the proposed layout
  4. Add categories to articles about legislation
  5. Edit/Add to List of bills in the 113th United States Congress - This is our most active collection of recently created articles on current notable bills in the 113th United States Congress. Most of them have a summary of the bill and information about their legislative history, but could use updates about debate over the bill, media attention, activism for or against, etc. If you aren't sure where to start, adding to one of these articles would be a great place!

Organization

  1. Further exploration with Wikisource
  2. Outreach to other organizations interested in transparency

Resources[edit]

Any organization with resources to share should list them here.

General information[edit]

Participants[edit]

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Members of the following groups may be interested in the activities of this WikiProject:

If you would like to list yourself as a participant in this project, please sign here:

Articles created as part of the project[edit]

... and many more, found at: List of bills in the 113th United States Congress.

Project subpages[edit]