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OpenCongress launches site for state gov’t transparency

As Realtors, the annual legal updates class is not enough to possibly stay informed of the laws that impact your career and your clients, but we all know that no one person has time to sit in on every state legislation meeting. It’s just not realistic.

But unfortunately, when the real estate professional isn’t involved and simply relies on the almighty dues to speak their mind for them, a lot of laws are put on or removed from the books that could alter their very course of business or harm their core clientele. Knowing of laws after the fact is not good enough because by then, Realtor involvement doesn’t matter.

Enter OpenCongress, a site that is devoted to transparency in high level government. All bills introduced are uploaded to the site and with a free account, you can track specific bills, changes to those bills, notes you or other people place on the bill and can even watch their popularity (or lack thereof) as to how people on the site vote them up or down. It has built in sharing buttons and RSS buttons as well as offers contact information for your local legislator so you don’t have to hunt that down.

For example, I am closely tracking several issues on land rights and net neutrality and I get notifications when anything changes… if it’s all on track, I don’t need to take action, but if things don’t go as I believe they should, before the bill passes, I can say something. I can make calls, I can write emails, I can write on AG. But if I weren’t tracking them and I didn’t know until I got it in the newsletter from the Board six months after it is passed and in effect, it would be too late for action.

Now you can track local government

Based on the OpenCongress model, they have announced the launch of a “free & open-source, OpenGovernment is a non-partisan public resource for transparency at any level of government: state, city, local, international, and more.” What we thought was really cool is that simply by visiting the site, it geolocates you and knows that state you’re in and presents that state’s legislature rather than making you search!

OpenGovernment, like OpenCongress is a non profit organization “dedicated to building public knowledge and combating systemic corruption in government, OpenGovernment is a joint project of two 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation.”

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OpenGovernment is being beta launched first in California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin, then the remaining 50 states this year. So far, it has been built by a group of volunteers, so be patient with and report any bugs.

How will YOU use OpenGovernment? What issues will you monitor? Now that you can be “involved” from your phone or laptop, are you more inclined to follow local issues?

For more information or notes on your state’s launch, check out their blog announcement.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Jim Duncan

    January 24, 2011 at 6:41 am

    I’ve been tracking Virginia government for a while, as best iI can due to time constraints, using and Seeing who is donating what is fascinating.

    Three notes:

    1 – To effectively track legislation, one must be paid to do so. The bills move quickly and furiously.

    2 – To effectively affect legislation, one must be paid to do so. The real work happens in the hallways.

    3 – If you’re a real estate agent and not tracking pertinent legislation, you’re not doing your job. So much of what we do is affected by politics – transportation, taxes, infrastructure, etc.

  2. Agent for Movoto

    January 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve looked at OpenCongress just as way of looking at stats/gathering info, but never tracked one particular bill for an extended period of time . . . . but it’s an amazing tool. Let’s hope that things like this become widespread.

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