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Is Facebook Filtering Content for More Ad Revenue? Guest Post from Craig Wilcox of Simplur

10.26.14

Is Facebook Filtering Content for More Ad Revenue? The treatment of recent major stories by Facebook highlights how our country’s dominant social network can amplify likable stories and filter out uncomfortable stories and challenging ideas. Facebook is optimizing user experiences away from important social information that might otherwise lead to substantial social progress. The question that …
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Rules and Regulations

09.22.14

What So, what is a regulated industry? Fusion Alliance defines a regulated industry as an industry that is significantly regulated by the state or federal government. Well yeah, but what does that mean? Regulation is defined as a rule or law designed to control or govern conduct. It is usually a statist law (state implemented …
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Affirmative Action

09.15.14

With the school year starting in the recent weeks, affirmative action is on many people’s minds. Affirmative action is an action or policy favoring those who tend to surfer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education. It is also often known as positive discrimination. There are two different sides to the debate over …
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Immigration Infographic 35

Immigration

09.08.14

Immigration is a topic that has been absolutely on fire in the news circuit in the last few years. There are news stories surfacing each week on different aspects of immigration in the United States. Something that many people do not realize is the immigration issues facing us in 2014 are drastically different from those …
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Some Friday Evening Culture?

08.15.14

  The National Gallery of Art offers free jazz performances at Jazz in the Garden at its outdoor café every Friday evening throughout the summer. I have gone to a few throughout the summer and thought on such a beautiful Friday you might consider attending later today. It gets CROWDED! I mean so crowded that …
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Welcome to our 10,000th User!

08.13.14

Since www.BillTrack50.com launched in March 2012 we have been thrilled every time a new user decided to register for an account and start searching for bills. Our users have found and read over 6 million bills already! Today we are particularly excited to welcome our newest user, the 10,000 user to sign up for our …
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Gun Ownership in America

Guns in America

08.11.14

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” With the debate on the Second Amendment raging stronger than ever, it has everyone asking – what should America do? …
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America Says, “I Was For Common Core Before I Was Against It.”

08.08.14

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, otherwise known as the Common Core standards, is not having a very good summer. In fact, the program is not having a very good year. Earlier this week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal filed a law suit to keep the state from implementing Common Core standards. Last …
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Do you know about Article 5?

07.30.14

During the week of July 18-20, BillTrack50 manned a booth at the Western Conservative Summit. As Karen and I sat and answered questions about BillTrack50, we started to sense a trend in the questions being asked. Aside from the usual “what does your product do, and how can it help me?”, we heard concerns about …
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How far in 60 years?

Racial Bias in America

07.28.14

Bias: a particular tendency or inclination, especially one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice. Racial Bias: a problem throughout America and the world. With articles like What Not to Do at an African Themed Party and the controversies with the Zimmerman trial, how have we not come further in the last 60 years since …
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Are You Smarter Than A Founding Father? (Guest post from Liberty Day)

07.24.14

This is the second in our series of posts from the Western Conservative Conference.  We were delighted with the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and mini constitutional flash cards given to us by Andy McKean from Liberty Day. We’ve invited Andy to tell us a little more about Liberty Day and their mission to distribute copies of …
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Regulation Freedom Amendment (Guest Post from Roman Buhler)

07.20.14

Joe and I spent the weekend at the Western Conservative Summit, meeting many interesting people. We invited a few of them to share their ideas on this blog. The following opinions are of the guest blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of BillTrack50. Please share your opinions in our comment section below.   …
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States Say Don’t Drone Me Bro … At Least Not Yet

07.18.14

Even before 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer told America that their skies were full of mostly-unregulated drones, I predicted that drones would be hot issue in state legislatures this year (and will be in future years until the U.S. Government and state governments can decide how to regulate these unmanned vehicles). I made this (not so …
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Brazil World Cup

Will Democracy Continue Paying to Play?

07.17.14

With the conclusion of the World Cup this week, and the controversy surrounding the money put into it, comes the question-will democratic societies continue paying for these immense, costly stadiums. Not only in instances like the World Cup and Olympics, but also in the United States for our ever so coveted sports teams the public …
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The BillTrack50 database, sliced and diced

07.15.14

  BillTrack50 was founded in 2011, and lwe aunched our website in early 2012. Since then we’ve accumulated quite a bit of data, a lot of which I’ve previously given you a look in this Eye Candy blog series. What I haven’t done is a simple overview of the entire database. Let’s take a look, …
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Pandas!

07.14.14

It has almost been a year since Bao Bao was born on August 23, 2013, at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Back then the only way you could view her was through the infamous Panda Cam. So I, like many other interested persons in the DC area, had to wait for her debut in …
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Be Concerned about Electronic Waste.

07.11.14

Ever wonder about where all those cellphones, computers, digital cameras and whatever other electronics we deem obsolete after a few years end up? According to Do Something, electronic waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of its overall toxic waste. Toxic waste is defined as waste material that can cause …
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Five Key Legal Challenges in Drug Abuse Cases – Guest Post

07.09.14

In any criminal case, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the crime with which he or she has been charged. Barring cases in which the defendant has either been caught red-handed either in possession of or distributing illegal drugs, or has been caught in a …
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Driverless Cars – Coming Soon to a Street Near You?

07.09.14

Congress may have broken the driverless car on the streets of Washington, D.C., but that hasn’t stopped state legislatures from looking at autonomous vehicles as the wave of the future in their state. Michigan is the most recent state to approve autonomous vehicles, at least in theory, joining California, Florida and Nevada.  In those states, …
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Too Cool for Climate Change?

07.04.14

Whoever chose to name what is happening to the world today as global warming should have talked to a marketing firm beforehand. Many scientists are attempting to rebrand global warming as climate change in order to properly name what is occurring on Earth. Climate change is a normal phenomenon occurring on the Earth since its …
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Internet gaming is not going away.

07.03.14

Some Personal Thoughts on Online Gaming If you ever wanted to place a bet before last year, you either had to drive to a local casino or try your luck at an online gaming site. This online phenomena seems to be revolutionizing the way some individuals gamble. I myself would rather go to a casino. …
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Are you playing genetic roulette?

06.28.14

Do you think that Americans should have the right to know if there are GMOs in their food? Or could it lead to the collapse of a very important part of the food industry through stigmatism? Is there a future of genetically grown hamburgers? According to this NPR article, grown beef patties are much more …
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Let’s Do This

06.26.14

Today at 12pm The U.S. will be playing Germany in the final game of the first round in the World Cup. The scenario we are all hoping for is that the U.S. tops the group with a win. We can also still be happy with a draw and advance. The U.S. could also advance with …
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Fancy Clock Face

New website updating schedule

06.21.14

We are pleased to announce that we have increased the frequency of our updates. Previously we were processing updates overnight, starting around 10:00 pm, and sending relevant alerts to our subscribers starting around 4:00 am. We have now started updating 4 times a day for actions, votes, sponsorship changes, etc. We will still be processing …
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Marijuana! Marijuana! Read All About It.

06.19.14

Weed, grass, pot, indo, ganja, Mary Jane, bud, reefer, hemp, cannabis or however else you know marijuana – it is coming to American society. With Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana this year and 22 other states allowing legal medical marijuana, marijuana has made its way back into the lives of many Americans. Notice that …
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Tesla and Their Love-Hate Relationship With State Government

06.18.14

Tesla Motors is one of those companies that is hard not to love.  They have a cool, innovative product.  They are all over the news, but no one you know has one.  They are leading the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) movement just as governors in eight states have pledged to put 3.3. MILLION ZEVs on …
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On the Waterfront

06.12.14

If you have never been to DC’s southwest waterfront, excluding the Nationals Ball Park, I suggest you visit sometime soon. Last weekend I decided to venture into a part of the city I had never been before. I would suspect the only reason many decide to travel to the southwest waterfront is to go to …
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Equity Crowdfunding – The Next “Next Big Thing”?

06.12.14

As someone who works with startups and small businesses and a member of the NationaL Crowdfunding Association, I am very interested in crowdfunding, especially equity crowdfunding.  Many people involved in crowdfunding are waiting for the Federal Government to release the regulations that will govern equity crowdfunding in the U.S.  However, more than two years after …
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Let’s Talk Abortion

06.10.14

Abortion, similar to Voldemort, the topic that must not be named. Must not be named because it will make for an uncomfortable, hostile room. Abortion has the ability to transform a cordial, friendly gathering into a battle royal in a matter of minutes. But why. Why do we avoid this topic? Why can there not …
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Akamai Government Forum

06.09.14

Last week  I attended the Akamai Government Forum. The day- long event featured professionals from across the public and private sectors looking to learn more about cyber security and cloud technology. The forum focused on the overview of the current and emerging technology trends and computing strategies for optimizing online operations. I had the opportunity …
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Triclosan – Safe and Effective or Unnecessary Risk?

06.09.14

The other day, I noticed that Beyond Pesticides, a national environmental advocacy group has launched a campaign against triclosan, an anti-microbial often found in hand soap, dish soap and other household objects. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to represent the pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers, distributors and formulators on their non-agricultural issues.  I continue …
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“I Would Advise Sunscreen”

06.03.14

One thing I have been wanting to do in DC since the weather warmed up is rent a Tidal Basin Paddle Boat. So on yesterday’s beautiful Sunday in DC, I thought renting a paddle boat would be a nice way to spend an hour in the sun. The views from the tidal basin are excellent, …
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Legislating Family Matters

05.31.14

Ronald Reagan famously said: “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedoms.” Whether you agree or not, there is no denying that American politics today certainly concerns itself …
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Memorial Day

05.27.14

  As we slowly get back to work this Tuesday after the much needed four-day weekend, I’m sure you were grateful for your Monday vacation. It was a time to relax and enjoy what most of us consider the beginning of summer. However, it is easy to get caught up and not realize what the …
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Is love, love?

05.24.14

Though the progressive era is in the past, there is much speculation about what the current generation will be called. The information age? The digital age? The new media age? Although all of these highlight what amazing advances we have made thus far with technology, this age is also characterized by many social justice movements. …
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Heart of DC Reopened

05.21.14

On August 23, 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the Washington, D.C. area, damaging the Washington Monument. Three years after sustaining the earthquake’s damage, one of the U.S. capital’s most recognizable sights reopened May 12, 2014. Built to honor and memorialize George Washington, the 555-foot marble monument towers over Washington, D.C. It has become, in …
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How resolute are the states?

05.19.14

If you read this blog, and I hope you do, you’re familiar with the basic landscape of how many bills each state introduces.  Here’s a map of how much legislation was introduced in each state in 2013 (when all the states were in session): However, this map includes both bills and resolutions. Some states use …
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Ever visit a country for 30 Minutes? Well you can in DC.

05.14.14

Over the past two Saturdays I had the opportunity to attend the annual open house embassy tours. For anyone that lives in Washington, D.C. or is ever thinking about visiting during the month of May, I would highly suggest taking some time to tour the embassies, as they display the culture of their country.      …
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A roundup of the latest BillTrack50 improvements

05.14.14

Here at BillTrack50 we believe one of the reasons our customers like us so much is that we try to respond to requests in a timely fashion. We’ve added lots of little things since the last roundup I did here on the blog, in addition to the bigger items that got their own posts (like …
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Bill Progress by State — a look at the legislative process

05.12.14

To celebrate rolling out our newest feature, filtering by bill progress, we are taking a look at bill progress across the states. The following analysis is about bills introduced since the beginning of 2014 through now (May 2014).  Note MT, ND, NV, and TX are out of session this year, and NC has not started …
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Combining Bill Sheets and new feature: Combine Unique

05.12.14

So you’ve broken your wide array of interests into smaller specific topics, and made a bill sheet for each one. Keeping your searches narrow helps keep your dashboard and alerts nice and organized, and therefore useful and efficient. You can also set your alert levels differently for different topics, and share alerts with different people …
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New Progress Filter

05.12.14

We have added a new way to filter bills on your bill sheet, based on their current progress through the legislative process. We are just taking a very high level view of the steps, so you can look for just bills that have at least  made it to the second chamber, or all bills that …
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Stop The Secrecy Banner

Stop The Secrecy!

04.24.14

  President Obama and other leaders are meeting in Asia right now to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a deal that threatens to censor your use of the Internet, kill jobs, undermine environmental protections and remove your democratic rights. This is urgent: They’re trying to nail down this deal right now under cover of extreme secrecy, with citizens …
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Colorado Energy Tech Mashup

04.24.14

(This is an event I’m putting together for the local community, so I feel compelled to share. The post was actually written by the inestimable Chris Franks, my partner in this endeavor)  A little over a year ago, a group of Denver entrepreneurs got the chance to sit down with one of the most famous …
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Introducing OpenTheGovernment.org (guest post by Mary Treacy)

04.20.14

In some circles, change is happening fast inside the Beltway – One issue on the front burner is the issue of open government itself. OpenTheGovernment.org is a key player in coordinating the work of non-profit organizations with the Federal Interagency Open Government Working Group. A priority is to ensure that the process itself is open. One concrete …
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National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

04.17.14

On Tuesday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed S03149 making New York the eleventh jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. New York’s 29 electoral votes bring the compact’s total to 165, or 61% of the 270 votes needed to activate the compact. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) was started in …
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Reset the Net

04.17.14

I’ve blogged about it before, so you know we’re big supporters of the fourth amendment around here. Not to take anything away from the first amendment, another fave, but the fourth has seemed to need even more love recently. As part of our efforts we’ve joined Reset the Net and pledged to do even more …
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There Oughta Be a Law – A Model Law (new paper from Mary Whisner)

04.13.14

I would like to bring to your attention this recent paper about model legislation:  http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2423090. It lists many organization that propose model legislation, and a wealth of examples, along with some salient observations about transparency. Here’s the abstract, or grab the whole paper:   There Oughta Be a Law – A Model Law Mary Whisner …
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Track educator policy legislation in SREB states

04.07.14

One of our favorite customers recently included this amazing (interactive!) eye candy in their monthly newsletter. I’m republishing it here with permission. I hope you click through to actually play with the tool. Inspirational stuff!   Track educator policy legislation in SREB states Policies concerning effective teaching have remained prominent on the legislative agendas of …
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Who’s Influencing Whom?

04.06.14

This summary/teaser was provided to us from our good friends at KnowWho. I found the information very interesting and so got permission to share this information here with you.   Grassroots Influence Pulse™ Qualitative Survey Results Topline By Amy Showalter and Kelton Rhoads, PhD What are the current trends in grassroots influence? How much time …
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censored nude

Criminalizing Revenge Porn

03.18.14

So your ex dumped you, or you caught them having sex with someone else.  How do you get-even?  Why by posting naked pictures or video of them, or even better, pictures or video of them “in the act” on the Internet, of course!  So goes the thought process of many people apparently, because such pictures …
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Guest Post: State Gun Safe Laws

03.09.14

  This is a guest post from Andrew Jerrard representing this gun safe website.  Before we start with Andrew’s post I want to share a list of current gun safe related bills: We’ve also dealt with second amendment issues before in our contrarian series and with another guest post infographic. And now, Andrew:   State gun safe …
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Thoughts on Arizona’s SB1062

02.26.14

From the right, by Gregory Conterio  (counter point below) “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” I’m sure we’ve all seen this on a sign, or heard the phrase before.  And if you own or operate a business, I’m sure you recognize the need and desirability to occasionally refuse to do business with …
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Revisiting the Fourth Amendment and introducing Omiro

02.26.14

A little while back, TechDirt and the New American had a blog posts about the NSA, and states pushing back on Fourth Amendment issues.  These articles featured several interesting bills: NH HB1533 - Requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device. NH HB1619 - Prohibiting the acquisition, collection, or retention of certain information. AZ SB1156 - Prohibited electronic data; …
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New Feature: Search for words near other words

02.12.14

We are pleased to introduce a new way to search on BillTrack50. In addition to being able to search for phrases by “enclosing search terms in quotes”, you can now search for words near other words, but not necessarily right together or in a particular order. Near searches assess bills based on how often your …
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BillTrack50 Early 2014 Topics of Interest

02.09.14

The 2014 session is already, statistically, about halfway done. We’ve seen well over 40,000 bills introduced in the last six weeks. Seems like a good time to take a quick peek at the topics that have been interesting to our users. To start with, here’s a word cloud of the topics that have been covered …
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Setting up a BillTrack50 Widget with your NationBuilder nation

01.29.14

  So you would like to keep your members up to date with the latest movement on some important bills.  We think that’s a perfect ambition; getting people passionate and knowledgeable about a topic involved in the process is exactly how the democratic process is supposed to work. We’d like to make that process as …
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New Feature: Sorting by Bill Number

01.25.14

We have always offered the ability to sort your bill sheet by any column, just by clicking on it (or clicking twice for reverse order). However, states number bills in a variety of ways. Some of which tend to confound a computer. When a state uses leading zeroes, then bill numbers will sort as you …
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New feature: Map your bills!

01.25.14

As you know, I love to do heat maps showing where certain topics are hot. Hydraulic fracturing, legislation about disasters, in addition to my incessant counting of bills introduced and passed by state.  We also have the map of current bills introduced that you can always see linked right on our home page. But what …
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2013 Wrap Up – a look at BillTrack50 and our esteemed users

12.29.13

2013 saw lots of legislative action, if not at the federal level, certainly at the state level. BillTrack50 saw lots of action too; we are proud to have served nearly three and a half million bills to our users this year, and given results on over a quarter of a million searches. Over the summer …
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New Feature: Automatic Free Trials

12.28.13

We’ve always had a very liberal free trial policy. But now we’ve integrated it right into our site so you can sign yourself up for a free trial right when you establish your first bill sheet. You’ll get an automatic 30 days to try all of our premium features for tracking and sharing before you …
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2013 Wrap up stats: what the states did this year

12.26.13

2013 was our first full year. And what a year it was! Thank you to all our users, and our customers, and to all the people who linked our bills in blogs, tweets, and elsewhere. We appreciate your support. I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the states and what …
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Easy, Simple, Automatic Way to Keep Your Constituents Informed: Widgets

12.22.13

So you would like to keep your members up to date with the latest movement on some important bills.  We think that’s a perfect ambition; getting people passionate and knowledgeable about a topic involved in the process is exactly how the democratic process is supposed to work. We’d like to make that process as painless …
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Reform ECPA: Tell the Government to Get a Warrant

12.02.13

  We here at BillTrack50 don’t take a (public) political stand, as a general rule. But we are unabashed fans of the fourth amendment, which we’ve blogged about before. If you have a moment, give a click for your civil rights. Here’s an excellent infographic What’s So Bad About the ECPA from TechFreedom:   click …
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Property Taxes in Your County (interactive map)

12.02.13

So it’s not legislation, but it is taxes, which, I think you will agree, are closely related. Not to mention this interactive map of property tax rate at the county by county level is some wonderful eye candy from the Brookings Institute.  Enjoy! http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2013/county-property-taxes-map   From the website: “How much does the average household in …
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Welcome Students! and Teachers!

11.25.13

We have been surprised and pleased with how many college students have been establishing accounts. We are happy to have you here, and want to make BillTrack50 even more useful to you. Please take a minute to fill out our brief survey. You can either go to this link or fill out the form below (give …
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Eleven Nations = USA

11.23.13

We all know the United States is far from uniform. Indeed that’s the underlying theme of this blog. There are lots of ways to break up the country into more understandable chunks. Recently my Uncle Ed (who is awesome) sent me a link to a blog post by Colin Woodard, the author of “American Nations: …
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Sharing Bill Sheets

11.02.13

We are very pleased to announce a major new feature: the ability to share your bill sheets.  When you go to any of your bill sheets, you’ll see a new tab for sharing. Sharing a bill sheet is a lot like sharing a stakeholder page. You invite a user to share your bill sheet by …
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Contest Winners!

11.01.13

We are excited to announce the winners of our first contest. But first, a little background. Initially we invited individuals and organizations to submit a paragraph about how they would use a subscription to BillTrack50 to address an issue they care about. We then opened the site for voting, and our readers chose the winner. …
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New Feature: Saving a Quick Search

10.31.13

We introduced several new features over the summer, and I’m happy to announce one more: saving a quick search. Quick searches have two distinguishing features. First, they are free for everyone for unlimited searches. All you need to do to access the quick search tool is register for a free account, and you’re good to …
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BillTrack50 Usage and Metrics

10.21.13

A few looks at how users are using our site. By state (hooray that all states are represented!): By city (Note, BillTrack50 is based in Denver): By top level domain: Here is where our visitors go:   Here’s how many bills are read every day (for a total of almost 3.5 million!!):     Top …
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New search screen, new data, and other updates

10.12.13

We’ve made several improvements over the summer, both to the website and to the data. New Quick Search The most visible change is to our quick search screen.  We simplified it to one search box, which you can toggle between “all of”, the most common search, and “any of”. You can put bill numbers right …
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Amazing Political Eye Candy from Mike Bostock

10.04.13

Roger pointed me at this site, and it’s amazing: http://bost.ocks.org/mike/. It is a series of visualizations by Mike Bostock. Boy are they pretty. I’d like to highlight a couple of my favorites which could most definitely be considered political eye candy. The little snippets of the graphic I’m showing are just to wet your appetite, you …
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Introducing Vote4.US — guest post by Jerry Brower

09.25.13

In some ways, local elections have far more impact on your daily life than who get elected president, but the local candidates are usually the ones we know the least about.  Sometimes we end up voting for whoever placed the most signs or bought the most advertising.  For most, it’s too much work to do …
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Bills on the go! CTA adds BillTrack50 to their mobile app

09.22.13

Interested in issues that affect the technology industry in Colorado?  Colorado Technology Association keeps a curated list of state and federal bills you should be aware of. We are also excited to be part of The Colorado Associations mobile app.  You can now access the list of key bills from the app, and even click …
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States Move Aggressively to Rewrite Immigration Law

09.20.13

While immigration reform legislation languishes in Congress, states are aggressively taking immigration law into their own hands. Immigration law is big business in states throughout the nation. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 43 states and the District of Columbia passed 377 laws and resolutions relating to immigration through the end of June …
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Meet PollVault and Nolan Love

09.09.13

This is a guest post by Nolan Love introducing PollVault, hopefully the first of several.  Take a quick look and you’ll see why I’m so excited about it.  You can reach Nolan at: contact (at) pollvault (dot) com for more information.   PollVault Democracy Server The fabric of our democracy is changing, post by post, tweet …
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State Voter ID Laws Under Fire from the Department of Justice

09.05.13

 State Voter ID Laws Under Fire from the Department of Justice  Politics Disguised As Policy View from the Right By John Walker In a move marked more by partisan politics than sound legal policy, the Justice Department has sued the State of Texas over the state’s strict voter photo identification law. The suit seeks a …
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What are all those bills about, anyway?

08.30.13

States often classify their bills by broad subjects, such as health, or education, or crime, etc.  We recently added this information to our site, and I realized that haven’t done a series of word clouds for a while.  Two facts that lead to on conclusion: we should look at what bills are about, according to …
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Denver Startup Week

08.27.13

We are happy to say we were chosen as one of the top 10 start ups in Denver, and will be showcased at the Tech Cocktail during start up week. We had tons of fun last year and are honored to be chosen again this year. They will also be crowning one company as The …
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Comparing How States Use Amendments

07.26.13

The states vary dramatically in how they implement the legislative process.  I’ve posted before how many bills get introduced, and passed, in each state.  I decided it might be interesting to take a look at how many times a bill gets amended during the process. To refresh your memory, here’s a map of how many …
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Security Versus Privacy- The Debate over FISA

07.20.13

The revelations of the surveillance programs perpetuated by the NSA have reinvigorated the conversation of what right there is to privacy in 21st century America.  As some tragic plots have reached the United States, most recently the Boston Marathon bombings, security agencies have with the approval of both Congress and the Obama Administration been granted …
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The Contrarians – Stand your Ground

07.19.13

The View from the Right by Gregory Conterio When history looks back upon the George Zimmerman trial, there will doubtless be much wonder about all the fuss.  After all, based on all the available evidence and witness testimony, this was a clear-cut, almost textbook case of self-defense, as anyone acquainted with the facts already knows.  …
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Guest Post – America’s Gun Violence Epidemic Infographic by GWU

07.15.13

Posted on behalf of Sarah Fudin, who works in community relations for The George Washington University’s online Master of Public Health program, dubbed MPH@GW, which offers students the ability to earn their MPH online. The topics of mental health and gun violence have been a hot topic across news outlets and the facts have surely been …
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Tips and Tricks for using your Bill Sheet

07.07.13

A bill sheet is basically a saved search.  Bill Sheets form the basis of our tracking and sharing services. The bill sheet grid itself has quite a bit of functionality. Then once you have your bill sheet just like you want it, you can build alerts, widgets, and stakeholder pages based on it. Making a …
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Does the Future of Public Education Lie With Charter Schools?

07.05.13

Education has been a field in continual evolution.  The goal of providing effective schooling while limiting costs has caused policy makers, researchers, and administrators to be in a continuous process of innovation.   Schools as a result have become laboratories for determining more effective methods to educate future generations.  However, with many states facing large budget …
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Restore the Fourth

07.04.13

                                            The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, …
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Session breather – Top Bills and other Statistics

06.27.13

Now that most of the states are out of session, or nearly so, I thought it would be fun to look at some top ten lists and other statistics about what people found most interesting on our site this year. To start with, lets look at the top ten bills read on our website so …
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The Contrarians and Abortion Legislation

06.26.13

(for an updated look at 2014 legislation see this blog post) The View from the Left Derek Smith There are a handful of middle-American states with Republican legislatures that are almost constantly churning out legislation to limit access to abortion, two of which made headlines a couple months ago—North Dakota for enacting the strictest regulation …
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The Voting Rights Act: The Repeal of Section 4

06.25.13

  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has essentially been nullified by a major decision from the Supreme Court.  The Court overturned Section 4 of the Act in a 5-4 decision split along ideological lines.  The decision is being seen as a challenge to the mission of the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.  …
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How States Format Bill Numbers

06.22.13

Every state has its own conventions for numbering bills. Some states zero-pad the number (eg HB0001) while others don’t. Most states use the standard prefixes HB and SB but even that isn’t standardized. Here’s a quick summary of how states number their bills: State SampleBill ID Zero Padded? Prefixes Used Comment Alabama AL HB1 No …
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The Contrarians – Is it time to End the IRS?

06.14.13

The View from the Right by Gregory Conterio Scandals are nothing new to Washington D.C. but the past few months have been remarkable in their number and proximity.  I don’t know that I have ever seen or heard of a similar period when so many scandals have popped-up in such a short period, and all …
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Anatomy of the Bill Detail page

06.09.13

The heart of our site is our bill detail pages.  There’s one for each bill introduced since 2011.  You can access these bill pages whether or not you have an account. You can get a bill page by registering for an account, doing a quick search, and then clicking the bill icon for the bill …
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The Contrarians – Disecting the Gun Control Argument: California SJR1

05.28.13

The View from the Right by Gregory Conterio The tragic and horrifying shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last year has thrust the issue of Gun Control once more into public debate.  This debate may have reached a crescendo on April 17th with the failure of the The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, …
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How to Use a Stakeholder Page

05.26.13

So, you received an invitation to see a stakeholder page.  Or maybe you clicked through a link from a website, or twitter, or email, and found yourself on BillTrack50 looking at a list of bills.  There’s a few little tricks that can help you make the best use of the page. Establishing an Account If …
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Is that bill going to pass? Here’s an easy way to tell.

05.24.13

So you are looking at a bill.  You hate it, you think it’s terrible, you think it’s trouble if it passes.  Or you love it, it’s a great idea, you think it could make a really big difference. You really hope it will pass.  But it’s in a state you aren’t that familiar with, and …
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How to find what you are looking for – constructing a search on BillTrack50

05.19.13

Building a search on BillTrack50 is fairly straightforward, however it isn’t exactly like doing a Google search. So there’s a few things you need to keep in mind, which I’ll explain in this post. There’s also a few tips and tricks advanced users might find useful.  Any bills that are introduced later and meet your …
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The Contrarians – What is it with South Carolina and Nullification?

05.15.13

The View from the Left by Derek Smith Citizens and legislators in thoroughly red states have been engaging in a exaggerated form of sabre-rattling towards the federal government since Obama’s re-election, implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) suggesting the will of the majority of voters at the 2012 polls does not really reflect the will of the …
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Summary of White House’s new Open Data Policy (by Alan deLevie)

05.13.13

It’s exciting times right now in the government transparency community.  Alan deLevie posted this very thorough summary of the recently released Open Data Policy, and it’s reception across the community,  in Robert Richard’s wonderful Legal Informatics Research Network google group.  I’ve pasted the whole thing below for your enjoyment.   Written by Alan deLevie: Today the White House released …
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Is it a Search? Is it Surveilance? Virginia HB1981 and GPS Monitoring (Contrarian)

05.09.13

The View from the Right By Gregory Conterio The school year is winding-down, and parents or not, the minds of many of us are beginning to turn to the summer. But that does not mean legislatures have been idle!  Bills of greater and lesser import continue to be introduced at the state and federal level. …
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Hack4Colorado – civic hackathon in Denver on May 31

05.07.13

We are excited to be sponsors of on Hack4Colorado, coming up in a few weeks. I hope you are getting ready for Hack4Colorado on May 31st – Just wanted to give you some more information to make sure your hacking experience is the best it can be. If you are following @Hack4CO on twitter, then you know …
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Minimum Wages: Do They Help the Poor, or Hurt the Economy? (Contrarian)

04.29.13

The Progressive View by Derek Smith In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama called for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour by 2015, and Congress has taken up the issue with the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. This proposal is considerably behind Obama’s 2008 campaign …
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The Ebb and Flow of Session

04.29.13

I learned a new word recently: prorogation. Which got me thinking, an inspired this post. It’s true that the states are all on different calendars.  But many start early in the year, and many are done round about now, or recently finished, or will soon finish.  As of now, we have 118,000 bills or so …
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NC H494 – The Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013 (Contrarian)

04.26.13

The View from the Right By Gregory Conterio The Rowan County Defense of Religion Act of 2013 does not appear to have much of a future.  According to local reporting, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis has said the bill will never be brought up for a vote.  Yet even though the bill likely will …
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Introducing: The Contrarians

04.23.13

We are launching a new blog feature, which I hope you will enjoy.  As you may recall, last summer we dubbed “The Summer of Controversy” and picked various hot-button topics to examine.  From  Gay Marriage and  Sex Offender Lists, to Stand Your Ground and Genetically Modified Food, we covered a wide range of topics, and hopefully helped you …
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Gay Marriage vs. Religious Freedom: Redux

04.17.13

(This post is from 2013; here is an updated post for 2014) With all the media attention at the time the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Prop. 8 and DOMA cases, it would be easy to believe that the fate of same-sex marriage rests in the hands of the Court. But anyone who has followed …
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Google, Twitter, & Facebook: We need to know if we can trust you

04.10.13

CISPA is a bill that would make every privacy policy on the web a total joke. These three companies say they’re for their users’ rights. So where do they stand on the law that would END privacy? See this view http://youtu.be/IkuH5ZjEdBw and check out this page for more information: http://www.saveyourprivacypolicy.org/ The internet is ours. Defend it.

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

04.07.13

There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That’s the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most …
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Social Networking Sites: Public Forum or Playground for Paedos?

03.29.13

While much of the national crime policy debate of this year has focused on gun control, the ever-present fear for our children’s safety has also ensured that state legislatures continue to churn out bills to get tougher on sex offenders [“SOs”]. Bill O’Reilly has been squawking about championing states’ incorporation of the federal version of …
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Word Cloud of Bills Passed in 2013 so far

03.23.13

Out of over 100,000 bills introduced so far this session, around 3,200 have been passed.  I thought it would be interesting to make a quick word cloud to see what’s in those bills.  Health and education are popular, as always, but also guns, controlled substances, and natural gas make an appearance as well.  And many …
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Social Media – Good or Bad? What your state government thinks (and is doing)

03.14.13

I personally am a huge fan of some social media (Twitter, Tumblr) less so of others (Facebook).  I certainly do think tools like these are going to be a significant communication tool for a long time to come.  Apparently state legislatures agree, and have been introducing an ever growing number of bills involving social media …
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Hydraulic Fracturing – legislative trends

03.07.13

Hydraulic fracutring has been very much in the news lately, and has become a flashpoint for many when talking about the role of the oil industry, and it’s future.  With the development of “unconventional” reserves, in particular using horizontal wells producing from shale formations, completion techniques that used to be the domain of petroleum engineers …
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New Webinar Series

02.28.13

We are launching a new feature: legislative round up webinars.  They will be short, but interesting, explorations of how one specific topic is being treated across the states.  We will do a quick demo setting to show you how to set up your own search, and then take some time to look at legislation across …
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Some nice eye candy from The Atlantic

02.23.13

“What Is It Exactly That Makes Big Cities Vote Democratic?” Some nice maps and graphs looking at how urban areas voted in the last election, and trying to figure out which factors might help explain why some (but not all) cities lean blue. Definitely worth checking out: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/02/what-makes-some-cities-vote-democratic/4598/

Has agreeability disappeared in politics?

02.16.13

We all hear about the gridlock in congress. Partisan politics seems the rule of the day.  But how do things look at the state level?  Do legislators get along better or worse? I previously wrote a post about what percent of bills pass, pointing out that Congress passed fewer bills then every single state last …
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NFL Fan Allegiance During The Playoffs

02.01.13

It’s not political, but it’s football, which is, you know, just as important. Right?  Quality eye candy at the very least. Beautiful job by http://io9.com.  There’s lots of good stuff in the whole blog post, well well worth checking out.  And, if it’s not too late, Go Broncos!  (it’s not too late, is it?)   Link: …
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Gun control and mental health suddenly interesting

01.30.13

I did another quick word cloud to look at what people have been searching for over the last few weeks (below is the results from the most recent 1,000 searches). Seems that mental health/illness, guns and firearms control have been searched for the most.  Along with various health related searches, which have been predominant since …
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New features and some examples

01.24.13

New Home Page Bling for the New Session As you are likely well aware, the sessions have started (or at least are pre-filing) nearly everywhere.  We are processing about 3,000 new bills a day.  To help you see the sessions unfold we’ve made a couple changes to our home page.  First, we have a running …
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2013 Session Kick Off Word Cloud

01.13.13

To celebrate an exciting milestone — passing 1 million bills read on our website — I decided to celebrate by looking at what people are searching for.  I took a look at the searches done in 2013 so far and made with word cloud using Wordle.net.  There’s a few themes that jump out.  Last year …
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Quick look at our users (hi users!)

01.03.13

First, welcome to everyone who is trying to keep up with legislation and recently found our site.  We’re glad you’re here!  The new influx of users caused me to spend a little time looking at who is using our site, and how.  First, it turns out people from nearly every county in the country have …
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New BillTrack50 Features – Just in time for Christmas!

12.23.12

The elves, or maybe our developers — our development elves? — have been hard at work making improvements suggested by our awesome customers.  In case you haven’t noticed, here are some new features you might want to check out: 1) It’s old news now, but federal bills are available and return in your results, with …
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How long is too long? Not long enough? Just right? (updated)

12.20.12

A little frivolous confection for your holiday enjoyment: comparing how long bills are in different states.  Thanks to Rich for a lovely job on the maps, as usual. As a first comment, the average word length across the country of words in bills is 6.16 letters, vs about 5 letters in common writing. Given the …
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‘Session Starts Soon’ Promotion

12.15.12

Why not subscribe to BillTrack50 for the new year?  You’ll find keeping up with legislation can be delightfully easy and affordable.  You’ll love our research, tracking, and sharing tools.  And for a little extra fun, we’re happy to announce the following pre-session promotion. Choose the item that suits you best: Two hour consultation (can be …
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Legislative Scorecards – A Brief (& Unofficial) History

12.13.12

Legislative scorecards give advocacy groups and associations a quick way to show voters if their own elected official is “with them or against them” on the issues. It is a difficult topic on the Hill or in State Houses where politicians are often accused of voting to get reelected rather than voting their principles.  But …
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Stop the Internet Coup – ITU meets Dec 3

11.19.12

An obscure international meeting next week could give a top-down, non-transparent UN body (one with representation from many dictatorships) the power to regulate the Internet. It’s called the ITU. The ITU would literally give dictators like Syria’s Assad (who was trending yesterday for–it seems–cutting Syria off from the Internet) a role in crucial decisions about …
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Voting map by voter, instead of by state

11.13.12

I find this presentation of how people voted across the country to be quite arresting. A wonderful example of political eye candy. Kudos to IDV Solutions and our friends at The Timoney Group on this well conceived and well executed map. Here’s a link to a bunch of versions, or check out IDV Solutions’ blog for …
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My Fair Election – first general results

11.12.12

So the dust has settled.  We know the election results.  But how did the election itself go?  Tracking and quantifying good and bad experiences around the country was the goal of our www.MyFairElection.com project.  With a great team and a little luck, we were able to gather over 1000 reviews of polling places on election …
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Top 10 Trending Bills and Legislators on BillTrack50

11.03.12

Our site debuted in March of 2012.  Since then tens of thousands of  people have been search for and reading bills on our site.  We also get a lot of requests for legislator information.  I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what is most on people’s minds going into the election.  …
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Bills about Disasters

11.01.12

LegiNation is based in Denver, which is pretty far inland, so we’ve been entirely out of harms way.  But our thoughts go out to those who have been impacted by Sandy.  We hope you are safe, and your recovery efforts go smoothly. Since it was on my mind, I decided to take a quick look …
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The prettiest political eye candy ever, by xkcd

10.28.12

This isn’t mine, but I have to share: Click for bigger view, and schedule some time to look, and think, and learn.  If this doesn’t wow you, then your eyes just aren’t interested in candy, I guess. Huge kudos to xkcd for this amazing graphic.  I feel good that I just bought the first book. …
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Tweet a bill, win a prize!

10.27.12

We are excited to announce a new promotion.  We already help you track your bills, now we can help you track your stuff, too.  We’ve partnered with Tagster.com to create these fantastic, all American tags. TAGster gives lost objects, people or pets a way back home. If you’d like a tag all you need to …
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Wondering where you can get new 2013 legislative maps?

10.16.12

At State Political Maps, we LOVE maps and we LOVE politics, so what better to do but design political maps and make them available to you? We offer gorgeous, full-color, high quality wall maps of Congressional, State House, and State Senate districts. Wall maps have always been useful for lobbyists, legislators, legislative staff, reporters, and …
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Introducing My Fair Election for Election Day Transparency

10.13.12

MyFairElection.com is a crowd sourced election monitoring platform created by faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School with support from LegiNation, Inc. and a group of dedicated citizens. It enables voters to take an active role in monitoring their polling places and in improving the quality of elections and ballot access in the United States. To …
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Can We Lower Our Prison Population?

09.25.12

The United States incarcerates the highest percentage of its citizens of any country in the world.  The country has about 5% of the world’s population but almost 25% of its prisoners, with the world’s largest number of inmates and highest per capita rate of incarceration The prison population has tripled since 1987, with now one …
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Today is Internet Voter Registration Day

09.25.12

  Every American who cares about the free and open Internet needs to be ready to vote this November. If you want to have your voice heard this election, you need to register by Tuesday in most states. To do so, please go InternetVotes.org and register yourself. If you’re already registered, you can help spread …
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What do we care about?

09.24.12

Perhaps you saw the Stephen Colbert segment about his Super PAC word clouds.  Drawing inspiration from that idea, I made a word cloud (thank you wordle) of the top words in all bills, state and federal, for 2011-2012.  Take a look: Let’s compare that to bills passed: Pretty similar, with Health and Education slightly larger, …
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How Purple Are We?

09.16.12

This time of year we hear a lot about swing states.  But every state is made up of both parties.  I thought it would be interesting to look at the distribution of legislators, partisan bills, and especially bipartisan bills. Let’s start with the distribution of legislators.  You might expect the count of legislators to be …
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Too Much Spending on Political Ads?

09.13.12

The onslaught of advertisements for the upcoming elections has changed in scope and tact in the sake of the means justifying the ends.  Advertisements regarding the November elections have infiltrated much of the available advertising spots across a spectrum of platforms.   It has now become an aberration to be unaware of the tides in the …
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PPACA Health Insurance Exchange Tracking

09.05.12

On March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Like it or not, this represented the most significant overhaul of U.S. healthcare regulations in over forty years. As Vice President Biden said at the signing, “This is a big f—ing deal.” Its far reaching provisions include a mandate …
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The National Debt Relief Amendment – A Powerful Idea Whose Time Has Come

09.02.12

The National Debt Relief Amendment (NDRA) is a nationwide effort invoking states’ rights under Article V of the United States Constitution to propose an amendment to our Constitution. The proposed amendment is, “An increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the legislatures of the separate states.” This idea was first formulated by …
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Comparing state legislatures by counting bills

08.28.12

On our home page we have a heat map of bills introduced in each state for 2011-2012, which is updated every night.  It looks like this:   Which is interesting.  Hawaii for example, has a surprisingly high number of bills.  As does Texas, when you factor in that they only meet every other year, as opposed to …
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Superfund: Helping the environment or hurting business?

08.24.12

Originating in 1980, Superfund was a program designed to implement clean-ups on hazardous sites through the mutual funding of the polluters and the government.  In 49 of the 50 states, there are still sites designated as Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  An undertaking this large is bound to be very expensive, and …
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Article V – The Powerful Tool We Never Use

08.12.12

For the last year, it has been my privilege to serve as the National Spokesman for the National Debt Relief Amendment (NDRA). The NDRA is a state-initiated, non-partisan effort invoking the rights of state legislatures to propose and ratify amendments to the United States Constitution using the process our Founding Fathers wisely provided in Article …
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What Can Be Done About an Obesity Epidemic?

08.11.12

David Satcher, US surgeon general from 1998-2002, began his “Call to Action” report with “Overweight and obesity ha[s] reached…epidemic proportions.” In 2004, the new U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, said that childhood obesity is “every bit as threatening to us as the terrorist threat.” A congressionally commissioned report from the Institute of Medicine published in …
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Does the 2nd Amendment Work?

07.30.12

“If you live in America, you are four times more likely to be murdered than if you live in Britain, almost six times more likely than in Germany, and 13 times more likely than in Japan” The tragedy of the mass shootings in Aurora has brought out a new cycle of discussion over gun control …
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The Value of High Speed Rail

07.18.12

“Around the world, high-speed rail is not a pipe dream of the distant future, it’s happening right now, and it’s been happening for decades. And thanks to President Obama’s vision, high speed rail is coming to America.” -Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood   In September 2010 President Obama officially announced his plans to improve the transportation …
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Public Funding for Professional Sports

07.05.12

(The post below is from 2012, for an updated picture of 2014 see this post) Minnesota just built a new baseball stadium for the hometown Twins.  Target Field is luxurious and spacious and the perfect confines for a competitive baseball team.  The Minnesota Vikings, however do not play baseball and thus need a stadium of …
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Declaration of Internet Freedom

07.02.12

  (click read more for graphic)   We believe that a free and open Internet can bring about a better world. But to keep the Internet free and open, we must promote these principles in every country, every industry and every community. And we believe that these freedoms will bring about more creativity, more innovation …
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Abstinence Education In Schools

06.29.12

Most American teens will have sex by the age of 19, not unlike their peers in other developed countries. However, the rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S. are much higher than other developed nations.  The difference may be attributable, in part, to the type of formal sex education provided in …
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Agricultural Animal Welfare Laws

06.26.12

A U.S. House bill introduced early this year to improve conditions for egg-laying hens has received renewed attention recently, as Sen. Diane Feinstein introduced an identical proposal in the Senate on May 24. If implemented, the law would require commercial egg producers to meet minimum standards for caging devices and set caging-related labeling requirements to …
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The Dilemma of the Death Penalty

06.26.12

Recently, Connecticut became the 17th state and the fifth in as many years to outlaw the death penalty.   In November, California may join them as well when voters will decide on an initiative about the fate of the death penalty.  Retribution for a crime lies in a complex web of factors and laws.  For some, …
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Online Sex Trafficking

06.19.12

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms …
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Shifting Stances on Medical Marijuana

06.15.12

Seventeen states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and seven more have proposed legislation that has yet to be decided on.   After Californians, in 1996, voted to passed the first initiative to allow medical marijuana, there has been a gradual shift in states attitudes, as well as laws regarding the subject. Based on a combination …
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Genetically Modified Food Labeling

06.09.12

A high percentage of food staples like corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets are genetically engineered, resulting in an astounding seventy percent of processed food on the American grocery shelf containing genetically modified ingredients. Everything from livestock feed to vaccine production has become dependent upon this biotechnological advancement.  Even though the dependency on genetically modified …
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The Future of Unions

06.08.12

Governor Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall elections has not only cemented his place in the forefront of the Republican Party but has also has shined a light on the state of labor unions.  Groups on opposing ends of the spectrum have either been quick to draw conclusions or dismiss the results as a …
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From Perverts to Pranksters: Problems with Sex Offender Registries

06.04.12

(see updated post for 2013 legislation here) Just hearing the term “sex offender” elicits an almost visceral feeling of disgust in most people, so it’s not surprising that laws regarding sex offenders tend to only get tougher. These laws usually have been passed in reaction to a high-profile sex-related crime, often bearing the names of the …
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Affirmative Action in Education

05.28.12

After the monumental Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 to desegregate schools, the country has seen a radical shift in the racial make-up of the educational system.  The days of the Little Rock 9 may not seem prevalent in our discussion of the demographics in public education.  However, as a generational …
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Personal Democracy Forum 2012

05.27.12

Sometimes, things just work out.  This is one such story.  First, some background: According to their website, Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) is “the world’s leading conference exploring and analyzing technology’s impact on politics and government”.  The PdF was started back in 2004 by Andrew Rasiej and co-Founder Micah Sifry, and has had quite a history of speakers and ideas.  It was …
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Greetings from www.FollowTheMoney.org!

05.24.12

Hello Bill Track 50 users, My name is Kevin McNellis and I am a researcher at the National Institute on Money in State Politics—the only organization that tracks campaign contributions to state-level candidates, political parties, and ballot measure campaigns in all 50 states. After running into the Bill Track 50 team at the Sunlight Foundation’s …
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Abortion Rights Under Attack

05.20.12

In response to the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, an abundant amount of legislation on the topic of abortion has been presented  – mostly in part to a concern that government on any level could potentially fund abortions either directly or indirectly through state insurance exchanges (effective Jan. 2014).  A number of bills have …
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The Right to Online Privacy

05.16.12

“One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.” …
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Does Same-Sex Marriage Threaten Religious Freedom?

05.10.12

  (For an update about the Supreme Court decisions and 2013 legislation, see this new post)   One peculiarity of the marriage equality debate is the fact that the most vocal opponents of laws legalizing same-sex marriage are the people who are arguably the least affected by them. It is easy to understand why some …
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“Peace Corps for Geeks”

05.10.12

I saw Jennifer Pahlka speak at SxSW about Code for America, which she founded in 2009. Here’s anther of her talks, this one for TED, which is well worth watching: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang///id/1381 She got me pretty excited about her ideas. She argued that the government should work more like the internet — permissionless, open, generative. Government as …
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National Smart Grid Starts at State Level

05.08.12

A national smart grid has been at the forefront of Barack Obama’s energy administration, yet it is still struggling to get through the state level. A smart grid replaces the traditional method of energy being transferred from the power station to residential homes and businesses.  Instead of a meter on each individual home, the local …
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Fair Pay Laws Create Controversy at State and Federal Level

05.07.12

Election year provides a hot source of contention on a number of political issues. This year’s debate highlights have centered a lot on women, notably policies addressing the gender wage gap.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, women make 77 cents on the male dollar as a national average.  Many groups attribute the …
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States Consider Changes to Stand Your Ground

04.28.12

(This piece is from April 2012, soon after the shooting.  For an updated look post trial,  map of stand your ground states, and a current list of 2013 bills, see this post) Following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, “Stand Your Ground” or “No Duty to Retreat” laws have received much scrutiny from the media. …
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Familial DNA Searching

04.26.12

A Violation of Privacy or Another Investigative Tool? On July 7, 2010, alleged California serial murderer Lonnie Franklin, Jr., nicknamed the “Grim Sleeper,” was arrested in connection to ten murders and one attempted murder spanning over three decades (1).  DNA evidence found at the crime scenes had failed to turn up a match within California’s …
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Photo Identification at the Polls

04.26.12

The conundrum of how to solve voter identification discrepancies without a blanket exclusion of downtrodden but eligible voters has spread across the United States.   The threat of voter fraud has caused over 30 states to enact new voter identification requirements since 2004.  The requirements vary by state and in strictness, with six states currently and …
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What it’s all about

04.25.12

Each week we will examine several hot topics that are in the news, from political campaigns, or interesting to us. We will explain both sides of the issue and tie it to the current legislative landscape to show what’s currently going on across the country. If after looking at the relevant bills you are moved …
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