The URL is the same, but the Pennsylvania General Assembly website is packing a powerful new data punch.
The revamped website, which gives users a wide array of legislative information, including bill texts and history, committee and floor votes, went live this morning.
There is also an email service for anyone tracking bills that sends notifications to your email box on the latest movement of the legislation.
It seems like only yesterday the public had little access to legislative information online, even roll calls and sometime it took days to update the site. If you wanted to know how your lawmaker voted on a bill you had to call his or her office.
But in the wake of the ill-fated legislative pay raise vote of 2005 public pressure prompted the General Assembly to begin posting information about bills on its website.
Now House and Senate votes are posted almost immediately after they occur, and new information has been added recently to the site, including co-sponsorship memos. That means the public can see ideas for bills before they are introduced.
The new site gives users the ability to share pages via social media such as Facebook and Twitter and link to Google allowing users to post meeting schedules on their personal calendars.
Another neat feature gives viewers a one-stop shop to read statements of financial interest from cabinet and board appointees that require Senate confirmation. (For now, you still have to go to the state Ethics Commission site to find statements of financial interest from lawmakers.)
Legislative leaders say the move is about openness and accessability.
“This is a total overhaul,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), chairman of the Legislative Data Processing Committee, the body that oversees and manages the General Assembly’s website. “Transparency builds confidence in government, and we rebuilt the website from the ground up so that it’s easier than ever for the public to follow and comment on the work of the General Assembly.”
Pileggi notes that in-house data processing staff handled the work and no additional taxpayer funds were used to remake the site.
Some of the prominent features of the redesigned website include:
• a front page that highlights current, relevant content such as convening times for the Senate and House, upcoming committee meetings and recent votes;
• new pages for the Senate and the House which highlight recent roll call votes and scheduled committee meetings;
• buttons on nearly every page which make it easy for users to share that page on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn; and
• the ability to track bill and committee activity through the free PaLegis Notifications email system.
• easier tools to help residents identify their legislators and find the text of bills being considered;
• new Google Calendar and iCal features, making it easy to add upcoming committee meetings to the user’s personal calendar;
• integrated, relevant tweets from the nonpartisan @PaLegis Twitter account;
• a new “popular pages” tab on the front page, giving instant access to the most-visited pages on the website;
• an enhanced executive nominations section, which includes links to roll call votes, nomination letters, and Statements of Financial Interest;
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