Monthly Archives: August 2014

Sunlight Foundation Joins The Free Law Founders

Major Open Government Group Added to Nationwide Coalition to Reinvent U.S. Lawmaking for the Internet 

Sunlight FoundationWASHINGTON, D.C. – The Free Law Founders (FLF) today announced that The Sunlight Foundation has joined the FLF coalition to overhaul how America’s state-and-local governments make laws, deliver access to legislative and law data, and engage citizens online.  Sunlight joins the growing network of government officials, citizens and civic software developers working to reinvent how democracy works on the Internet with the FLF, including: NYC Council Member Ben Kallos, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, Boston Principal Data Scientist Curt Savoie, The MIT Human Dynamics Lab, The OpenGov Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation.

“Sunlight is pleased to be joining the Free Law Founders and its effort to change the way millions of people interact with the law,” said Sean Vitka, Federal Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation.  “More than just broad policy, this is about accessibility and empowering those pioneering civic hackers on the ground. We look forward to working with coalition members to make sure our neighbors know what their governments are doing, know what their laws are, and are able to put that information to use.”


The Sunlight Foundation has been a national leader in government transparency advocacy and technology, and has been opening government data online since its founding in 2006. Sunlight’s Open States has collected and standardized legislative data from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico and serves as a model for how open legislative data can make law more shareable and accessible to all. Open States shares its data via an API, and its code via GitHub, so others can reuse, benefit and extend Sunlight’s work. Sunlight is now taking the expertise it has gained from the Open States project to open and standardize local legislative data with the Open Civic Data project. In addition, to legislative data technology projects, Sunlight advocates for policy and legislation aimed at making all government data more open and accessible. In all this, the FLF intends to follow in Sunlight’s footsteps.


“I’m thrilled to have the Sunlight Foundation on Board as our newest Free Law Founder, given their vast experience in open data and open government initiatives,” said San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell. “I look forward to working closely with the Sunlight Foundation to bring the principles of open legislation to municipalities and states across our country.”


“Sunlight, as Justice Brandeis famously wrote, is the best disinfectant for closed, unaccountable and inefficient government,” said Seamus Kraft, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The OpenGov Foundation.  “Over the last 8 years, The Sunlight Foundation has gained unmatched experience bringing tech-powered openness to all levels of American government.  We’re proud to call them Free Law Founders.”



About the Free Law Founders

Citizens, technologists and public officials working together to transform state & local lawmaking for the 21st Century

The Free Law Founders is a nation-wide, collaborative effort open to all people who want to improve how laws and legislation are produced and presented to citizens of American states and cities. Our goal is to modernize how democracy works in the United States from the ground up. To get there, we’re creating open source tools and open data formats government workers need to get their jobs done efficiently, effectively and accountably.

Click here to join the Free Law Founders!




Taking Stock of 2014

August is upon us.  We’re taking this quiet-ish time to review the year and recharge for the final sprint.  Here’s how The OpenGov Foundation will remember 2014 (so far):


Launched the Free Law Founders — a nationwide coalition to modernize American lawmaking for the Internet Age

In July, we helped launch the Free Law Founders, a nationwide coalition of local elected officials, non-profit software developers, educators, and city attorneys dedicated to upgrading how citizens can access America’s laws, legislation, and the lawmaking process itself on the Internet. Learn more about what the coalition does and how you can become involved here.


Abhi Nemani, fresh from Code for America, joins OpenGov Board of Directors

In June we were honored to have Abhi Nemani, former Co-Director of Code for America, join our board.  Abhi is a writer, speaker, organizer, and technologist who helped build the national non-profit, Code for America, from the ground up.


Citizens are reforming San Francisco laws with

In July, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted into law one of the first ordinances created in the US through online citizen input.  Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced the bill after receiving a comment on, one of our America Decoded sites, highlighting a law that prohibits storing bicycles in San Francisco garages.

In a ground-breaking civic engagement initiative, Supervisor Farrell also launched ReImagineSF, a competition offering scholarships to students in the city who use to suggest improvements to the city’s laws. Supervisor Farrell announced the winners on July 15, and will introduce their ideas as bills to the Board of Supervisors later this year.


“Decoding” city & state laws gets easier with OpenGov-AmLegal partnership

In May, we announced a partnership with American Legal Publishing Corporation that gives us easy access to well-formatted legal code from over 2,000 American Legal client cities across the nation. Through this partnership we have built a parser that allows us to more easily make American Legal cities’ laws accessible and restriction-free online. We’re exploring a similar partnership with legal publisher Municode, too.  These partnerships enable us to scale our work in ways that previously proved difficult due to the lack of legal code in workable data formats.  Click here to get started “decoding” your laws and legal codes.


Madison powering online citizen-government collaboration on DC legislation

We launched a beta version of our Madison collaborative drafting platform in the District of Columbia in partnership with Councilmember David Grosso back in May. In addition, Councilmember Grosso brought comments received on Madison directly into the hearing, using citizens’ suggestions and questions in conversation with public witnesses.

Our general Madison instance continues to host key pieces of legislation from around the nation, including seven bills related to open government and open data authored by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, and Senators Leahy and Cornyn’s FOIA Improvement Act of 2014. And we have created a new instance of the platform at the request of the United Nations’s International Telecommunication Union, to support the crowdsourcing of a document concerning the use of information and communications technology in empowering youth.


Partnering with the W3C on open source legislative & legal drafting platform

We have partnered with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which governs the architecture and rules of the Web, to create an entirely new tool that combines project workflow management, collaborative document editing, and intelligent information gathering. This tool will eventually replace the current editing tool on Madison, creating a powerful new way to approach policy-creation.


Won $7,500 from to bring online annotation to older web browsers

In June, we were awarded a $7,500 grant from to improve the open-source project Annotator, a tool for annotating the web, and which powers Madison’s annotations. The grant goes towards ensuring that Annotator works consistently across browsers and older versions of browsers.


“Design Whisperer” Jen Yu joins OpenGov Board of Advisors

We’re thrilled that Jen Yu has joined our Board of Advisors to serve as our “Design Whisperer.”  She has led wildly successful design and experience teams, from Disney to Adobe, Slide (acquired by Google), Jawbone, and Frog Design, to name a few.  On top of those amazing accomplishments, Jen has led the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) experience design team in building Plan X, the U.S. Defense Department’s foundational cyberwarfare program.  Right now, she’s the Chief Creative Officer of a Y Combinator startup in San Francisco.  And she says that if you buy her a cookie, she will gladly take it.


That’s where we’ve been.  Where are we going for the rest of 2014?  Just ask!