OpenCongress.org publicized a new project last week that aims to further the government transparency mission of the site- The Fifty States Project from Sunlight Labs. An independent resource that is asking every state to make their legislative news and data available to the public, the project has already documented Open Mass, a state government site built on the source code of Open Congress. From November 2008, Open Congress has built itself from official government data, news coverage and blog posts to publicize the complex inner workings of Congress. The "free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource" is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation .
target="_self">Open Mass was created by Jim Caralis, and tracks issues, bills and everything legislative in the state of Massachusetts. The structure of both sites have clear navigation to bills, senators, representatives, the national site additionally having committees, industries, issues &c. The state site covers public hearings and the Massachussets governor. The sites also track the views that bills, issues and individuals receive, which is additionally helpful.
While the hope that each state will follow suit eventually, the creation of this site has made it clear that the structure that makes such publication possible just does not exist. The necessary information must be in recognizable databases, just as is found in those that Open Congress relies upon. Until these databases are built by each state, the Fifty States Project is stuck.
The Sunlight Labs blog suggests simple scripts could harvest content from State Legislation sessions, but this might not be that simple for all states. In a call to action, Sunlight Labs has set up a Wiki and a site called github to share utilities, data and ideas. The organization is also promoting the project at a series of "hackathons" around the country.