Citizens, technologists and public officials working together to transform
state & local lawmaking for the 21st Century
Transforming America’s laws and legislation to meet the needs of the Internet Age requires a team effort. State and local government officials, residents and civic software developers all have a role to play. So do vendors, open government advocacy groups and cutting-edge research universities. That’s the only way we can “decode” the United States, opening up online the central data in every democracy: the laws and legal codes that govern us.
Enter the Free Law Founders (FLF). As Government Executive writes, the Free Law Founders is a nationwide “partnership to create new tools, data standards and processes for state and local governments to make public information and data better accessible to the public.” Why the FLF? The problems of today’s exclusionary, inefficient and paper-based laws and legislative process are faced by every single government in America. Go to any city council or state house in the United States – as The OpenGov Foundation has done over the last year and a half – and you’ll hear the same thing: our software stinks and we hate PDFs, but we don’t have the time, tools or talent to fix it.
That’s a problem crying out for cross-country collaboration and low-cost open source solutions. It’s “The Ultimate in Open Government.” To get there, FLF members will be working on expanding and enhancing free tools like Madison, America Decoded and Councilmatic. We’ll be working on crafting and passing policies to foster this open law ecosystem, with an open legal data standard to match. And we’ll be sharing everything – our code, our data and our gameplans – at FreeLawFounders.org so others can benefit.
As NYC Council Member Ben Kallos, a founding FLF member, put it: “The law must be free. The government must belong to the people, and with it the source code that operates and improves legislation and laws. Millenia ago, Hammurabi codified law and displayed it publicly for the people to see. Today, public means free and online, not behind a license or paywall.”
In addition to Kallos and The OpenGov Foundation, current FLF members include: San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, NYC Council Member Ben Kallos, Washington, D.C. Council Chief Counsel David Zvenyach, Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, Boston’s Principal Data Scientist Curt Savoie, the Participatory Politics Foundation, and MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab. As FLF members, we’re sharing our time and talents to vivify these basic principles of Free Law, and contribute to securing them for the entire United States.
The Free Law Founders is open for anyone to join. Civic hackers, everyday Americans, government officials, private-sector vendors – everyone can contribute to achieving this massive modernization effort of how we make and access America’s state and city laws, legal codes and legislation. Drop me a line to get started on the path to transforming your city and state laws and legislative process for the Internet Age.
Don’t get stuck in the Dark Ages of Democracy with PDFs, copyright restrictions and chaos. Do something about it with the Free Law Founders.