Dream Bill for Decision-making Information Access – By Steven Clift – 1999

As sent in October 1999 to the Government Publishing on the Internet e-mail list. Fast forward ten years and compare with my recent 2009 message to the Open-Gov online group that I wrote not recalling my past post and see how far we haven’t come.


I am interested in your feedback on any efforts to fund/support government online development in terms of Internet access to legislative/rulemaking/decision-making information and interaction. I helped staff the Minnesota Government Information Access Council 1994-97 and it seems that anything that requires new resources to provide online (versus a leveraged HTML dump) hasn’t happened.

For example you can access most Minnesota legislative documents that existed in the older systems, but rulemaking information is rarely online except for (almost useless PDF state register files) because there is no uniform system to leverage. I am **thinking about** working with some MN legislators and perhaps Gov. Ventura’s office to draft up a dream bill for online access to official government “democracy” decision-making information.

Below are a set of ideas that have been bouncing around my head. These are expensive infrastructure ideas that would require new public investments – no creative budget shifting would bring these about.

Are you aware of any states/countries that have:

1. A requirement that all public meetings be announced via a statewide online system that includes the meeting time, place, agenda, live net audio/video feed information and perhaps searchable past agendas, official minutes, and archived audio/video files.

2. A state-level fully web-enabled rulemaking information system that covers all agencies with rulemaking authority.

3. A statewide directory of all public (state and local) elected and appointed bodies including information on each member and term of service.

4. A government-wide electronic correspondence system which assigns permanent e-mail addresses to all elective and appointed positions as well as a system for use by officials to sort incoming e- mail and develop auto-response routines.

5. A “My Democracy” system which allows the public to monitor and be automatically notified of state legislative or local council bill introductions, amendments, changes, meeting notices based on user preferences.

6. Comprehensive Internet access to audio/video feeds for all legislative committee hearings and floor sessions and searchable access to audio/video archives.

7. Live meeting support systems for full remote Internet access to meeting handouts and other materials distributed at the meeting. Complementing audio/video access such a system would allow handouts and testimony to be submitted in HTML and other popular formats for instant Internet access.

8. Legislative or city council chambers that have been fully connected for ISDN as well as standard **Internet-based** audio and video conferencing for remote testimony. Specially outfitted legislative offices that extend notebook access to include audio/video conferencing such that legislators are equipped to meet with constituents or make public/school presentations from their offices via Internet-based video conferencing.

9. A statewide open appointments system that contains announcements for all state and local open appointment opportunities include “My Democracy” opt-in notifications based on parameters preset by the citizen.

10. Rule of Law systems that extend from state statutes and rules to provide coordinated online access to all local and school ordinances and state agencies or university rules and procedures. I am interested in full hyperlinked system showing the extension of the state constitution down through every law, rule, or procedure that draws its legitimacy from that constitution.

11. Examples of state-level “C-SPAN” like organizations that have extended video coverage from just legislative event to executive branch and significant non-government public affairs events.

12. Model legislation to package the text, audio, and video services described here into an official, government-funded “democracy network.”

13. Creation of school and library-based “Democracy Centers” where dedicated Internet-terminals and support materials are presented to allow enhanced public access to online legislative information. This might include a training program for librarians to improve support for patron.

14. A requirement that all agency reports required by or submitted to the legislature be delivered in standard electronic formats and that those reports be stored and archived in an uniform and sophisticated system. This might include a fully electronic state document depository system.

15. An online conference center where commissioners and elected officials can interact publicly with citizens or where organized online events sponsored by government agencies can be held. Or official online partnerships among government, non-profit, and media organizations to create topical spaces for public policy discussions connected directly to the legislative/administrative process or general “public commons” forums at the local level. These interactive spaces would be linked from appropriate places on government web sites, from a “My Democracy” page, or for example allow people interested in a certain legislative proposal to opt-in to communication versus just receiving the bill one-way from government without any forum for online deliberation.

Please send any feedback to: clift@publicus.net

Steven Clift