As GovTrack continues its fifth year and we head into the new session of Congress starting in 2009, we have a bunch of new site updates to share.
Here are the major improvements made to the site this fall, some in the last few weeks:
The bill text view has been completely overhauled by Kevin Henry, thanks to a grant from the Sunlight Foundation. Bill text pages now have hyperlinks from tables of contents to the sections later on, collapsable sections for large bills, highlighted and side-by-side view modes for viewing changes to the bill over time, the ability to compare any version to any other version of a bill, showing only sections with changes, permanent links to a particular paragraph within the bill, pop-up bubbles to show a bill in the context of the U.S. Code it modifies, and the ability to embed a particular paragraph
of a bill on your website with a widget.
Community Question and Answer
You can now find on bill pages a box to enter questions about the bill, and to see what questions other GovTrack users have posted. Then you can answer them. It’s a community effort to research legislation and help others get the facts. Take a look at the list of recent questions and answers and see if you can answer any (possibly by putting your research hat on). It’s a civic good deed. Since the feature was added at the end of June, 1,200 question and 1,000 answers have been posted. Since December, you can now subscribe to a feed for the discussion just for individual bills.
Compare Voting Records
Following on the heals of OpenCongress, you can now make a comparison of the voting records of two members of Congress, from the roll call votes page. You can also more easily get the voting record of a single member of Congress now. Since the summer, votes pages have included some cute pie charts, and, also, the time of day when the vote happened, in case you’re doing some deep research.
The advanced bill search page now lets you search by sponsor or cosponsor.
The Members of Congress Google maps mash-up now has a link to let you add the congressional district color overlay to your own Google Maps.
Members of Congress
(this currently is semi-working). Pages for representatives now show a little map for their congressional district and a listing of the counties and towns in the district. See this example.
I have written a page on Tips for Commnicating With Congress. Should you write your rep? What should you include? Take a look. (Also since earlier in the year.)
Bills pages now show related pages based on what GovTrack users have selected as trackers (hat tip to OpenCongress who did it first). This will help you find legislation that has superseded the bill you are looking at, for instance. (This was added earlier in the year.)
The pages for bills now have a new section for committee assignments, and have new popup help bubbles for some explanation to what parts of the page mean.
Appearance and Widgets
The appearance is all new! Thanks to Dan Gabriele, the site now looks pretty professional, I would say. We rolled out initial changes in August and pushed a second update in December.
The feed and bill status widgets that you can embed on your webpage (which by the way we had first) can now be customized easier (since September). As mentioned above, there is a new widget you can use to embed a single paragraph of a bill into your webpage/blog.
The congressional district look-up API now supports lat/long, addresses, ZIP codes, and ZIP+4 codes, and since December reports the current representative for a district. You may not know about the three other APIs either: see the source data page.
Looking to help in the development of GovTrack or get involved in civics? See the Help Us link at the top of GovTrack.
I previously posted about site updates in September.