The Government Domain: What's New in DotGov and Beyond

Can't keep up with the blogs and the emails and the feeds? Here is a summary of some interesting development in the world of online U.S. government information, all in one serving.

Congress

The powerful House Rules Committee, sometimes called the "traffic cop" of the House, now offers two RSS feeds. One is Special Rules Reported from the House Committee on Rules. The Rules site provides an explanation of special rules. In brief, special rules - which are used for most high-profile legislation - can set the terms of debate and amendment for a bill on the House floor. Keeping up with new special rules is essential to understanding House floor action on a bill, and it just got a whole lot easier with this new feed. The second House Rules RSS feed is for Amendments Submitted to the House Committee on Rules. This second feed has less general usefulness than the first, because few or none of the amendments submitted may get to go forward and because amendments can be submitted for a wide array of (don't be shocked) political reasons. (Author's note: thanks to The Open House Project blog for calling the new feeds to my attention.)

Both the House and Senate websites have revamped their lobby disclosure pages due to changes required by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA), Public Law No. 110-81. The main Lobbying Disclosure page for the House now has a filings search. The Senate's Public Disclosure page has a new gateway page for its lobbyist filings search.

Courts

By now, anyone who reads a law blawg or two has probably heard about the body of federal case law entering the public domain due to the efforts of Carl Malamud and associates. A February 11, 2008 press release announced the availability of all U.S. Supreme Court opinions and all federal Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 forward available for bulk download. Relevant documents are in the courts.gov section of Malamud's public.resource.org site. The case law has been incorporated into FastCase's new, free Public Library of Law, Justia's Court of Appeals page, and Altlaw, among other sites.

Public Library of Law

Elections

The federal government portal USA.gov features a Voting and Elections section in both English and Spanish. The section links to government and other websites about the registration and voting process, voting rights, the Electoral College, elections statistics, and related topics. This portal section is an excellent example of the service USA.gov provides, selectively linking to resources that are scattered across federal and state agency sites.

Searcher magazine ran a link-rich, two-part series about presidential and congressional election resources. Content from the series, The 51st State: The State of Online, by Laura Gordon-Murnane, is available for free online:

Democratic Party superdelegates are the election topic du jour. To keep up with resources in that area, visit the Superdelegate Transparency Project, a joint effort of the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media and Democracy. The Superdelegates in the 2008 presidential primaries article is the place to check for background information and links to external resources.

Federal Budget

As we all know, the President's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 is available online at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website and on GPO Access. A document that usually gets a lot less attention is the annual Financial Report of the United States Government from the Treasury Department. This February, Treasury also released a summary report, The Federal Government's Financial Health: A Citizen's Guide to the 2007 Financial Report of the United States Government (PDF). The report, citizen's guide, and related Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports are also available from the GAO website. The major theme of the citizen's guide is: "Unless action is taken to bring [Social Security and Medicare] program cost in line with available resources, the coming surge of entitlement spending will end in a fiscal train wreck that will have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy and on virtually every American" (page 1).

Library Services

Government Information Online (GIO), a cooperative online reference service for government information, has resumed service as a partner with the Government Printing Office(GPO). The service is managed by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) University Library government documents department with help of other participating federal depository libraries.

The United States of America

America.gov is the new name and URL for the information provided about the U.S. by the State Department's International Information Programs Bureau. Visitors to the old Information USA site, formerly at http://usinfo.state.gov are now redirected to this revamped site.