We’re proud today to announce the launch of our next state on OpenGovernment: Minnesota. Now folks in Minnesota can track with ease everything their state legislature does — all the bills that are proposed, votes that are taken, money that was raised, and more. We’ve timed the launch of this, the sixth U.S. state on OpenGovernment, to coincide with the Netroots Nation conference ongoing this weekend in Minneapolis / St. Paul. We’re pleased to share this new public resource for accountability in government and citizen watchdogging with all the political bloggers & issue-based activists there.
Together with our partners at the Sunlight Foundation and with greatly-appreciated support from the Minnesota Historical Society, we’ve taken the clunky and outmoded official MN state legislature site, set up web scrapers to liberate the data, combined it with information from other transparency databases, and put it all in a user-friendly interface that’s designed to make the working of government accessible to everyone, not just lobbyists and insiders. Thanks go out as well to all of our open-source & non-profit data partners, especially the terrific Open States Project of Sunlight Labs, which provides the site’s backbone of legislative information. In more detail, to everything in the MN state Senate and House of Representatives we’ve added the following:
- Twitter, news, and blog mentions of bills and legislators that bring social wisdom and real-world context to the raw data.
- Content view counts to help you understand what bills are getting noticed.
- Comments forums that open up every bill in the legislature to public review and discussion.
- Built-in buttons for quick sharing with your social networks.
- The ability to easily write your elected officials – with more enhancements planned for this process, coming soon, stay tuned…
- Visualizations for easier understanding of bill status and roll call votes.
- Simple tracking of bill status, votes by members, and more through RSS feeds
- Summaries on the homepage of the makeup of each chamber: Senate, 32 Democratic-Farmer-Laborers & 38 Republicans; House, (63 Democratic-Farmer-Laborers, 72 Republicans); plus links to the best online explanations of how the Minnesota legislature works, such as this handy news resource from MN Public Radio and the wiki Ballotpedia-MN.
For an example, here’s a sample bill info display from the official Minnesota government website:
And here’s how the same bill looks now on OpenGovernment-MN:
Since we launched the OpenGovernment platform in January, thousands of concerned citizens have used it to organize around legislation like Wisconsin’s anti-union budget bill and a gun rights bill in Texas, and to learn more about the special-interest money that funds campaigns, monitoring their elected official’s votes, and catching up with important floor activity that brings them right into the action.
Soon we’ll be connecting the federal information on OpenCongress with the state information on our OpenGovernment sites to make it possible for people to track the legislative issuess they care about across multiple levels of government in one place. Moving forward, we are seeking funding partners to roll out the OpenGovernment platform to all 50 U.S. state governments (not only the legislative branches, but also the executive & judicial). If you’re a philanthropist or if you work at a foundation, get in touch and let’s see if there’s a way we can cracking on opening up the legislature in your state. We’re building an open platform for citizen participation in government from the ground up. If you appreciate what we’re doing, please consider supporting our work.
Questions or feedback, or find some interesting MN-specific info that you’d like us to highlight here on the OpenGovernment blog? Let us know what you think. We would love to share some reactions from Minnesota-based political bloggers & state-house journalists, to whom we’ll continue to do outreach around this free & non-partisan resource — drop us a line, we’re easy to reach and glad to share your experience using the site for research & sharing. And as always, looking forward to continuing to build this non-profit tool for the Land of 10,000 Lakes and rolling out OpenGovernment to all 50 U.S. states. (Pictured above: MN state capitol in the public domain by Mulad; and Overlook of Watap Lake from the Border Route Trail, licensed by-sa-nc, all cool, by timdan2.)
More quick links to useful sample pages on OG-MN:
- Key votes this session, i.e. major bills, from Project VoteSmart
- Legislators most in the news – our unique link aggregation in action
- Campaign contributions by industry to members, from FollowTheMoney
- Sample issue area: budget, spending & taxes
- Sample issue area: social issues
- Official micro-published announcement to circulate: on @open_gov.
- Contact us (via OpenCongress ZenDesk support) w/ your questions & feedback.