Transparency groups say THOMAS legislative website is outdated

The Library of Congress’ THOMAS online system for tracking legislation is outdated and needs to be overhauled to better serve the public, according to more than two dozen transparency watchdog groups.

The THOMAS website ought to be changed to allow for bulk downloads of the legislative data, the groups wrote in an April 10 letter to members of Congress. The letter was released by the Sunlight Foundation on its April 10 blog.

While THOMAS, named after Thomas Jefferson, initially was an innovative provider of basic information, its technology has fallen behind the times and the system is difficult to use, the groups, including the Sunlight Foundation and Project on Government Oversight, wrote in their letter.

Because of the difficulties with THOMAS, millions of Americans are relying on free third-party websites such as GovTrack, OpenCongress and Washington Watch, the groups asserted. But those websites still rely on THOMAS for the data, a process that is “imperfect, expensive and time-consuming,” the watchdog groups wrote.

“We estimate that for every person that goes directly to the THOMAS website, at least two people visit a third-party website,” Daniel Schuman, policy counsel for the Sunlight Foundation, wrote in the group’s blog on April 10.

The better approach would be to make the legislative information available for bulk download in addition to other means, the letter said.

“Bulk access would in essence make the entire legislative database available for download, instead of requiring users to gather information by visiting hundreds or thousands of web pages. It would make it easier for third parties to build innovative new tools, and ensure that Americans have the most accurate information at their fingertips,” the watchdog groups said in the letter.

While lawmakers have already expressed support for bulk downloads, and while federal executive agency data is being downloaded through Data.gov and other websites, THOMAS’ architecture has not been updated.

As Congress prepares appropriations for fiscal 2013, the groups urged that the Library of Congress to begin availability of bulk downloads within 120 days, and to create an advisory committee on improving public access to legislative information.



About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group