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Happy New Year!

Welcome back to Data First. This past year has been full of extraordinary challenges. We are thankful for your support and resilience this year, and we’re wishing you all the best as we get rolling on 2021.

We’re especially thankful for the positive response we received to last month’s first edition of Data First. For this month’s edition, we thought this would be a great moment to hit pause and reflect on our work to modernize the legislative process—on how it has evolved, on challenges we and others have faced, and where we’re headed.

We have some exciting plans in the works for 2021. For instance, the state legislatures of the future are coming sooner than you think. As Xcential co-founder Brad Chang explains in his interview below, a Data First approach to state lawmaking is bringing contextual drafting, comparisons, and collaboration to the process right now, in 2021.

We’d love to connect and hear what you’re working on (you can respond directly to this email). Let’s keep the Data First discussion going.

Mark Stodder

FEATURED STORIES

State Legislatures of the Future: Interview with Xcential Co-Founder Bradlee Chang

HData CEO Hudson Hollister recently interviewed Xcential co-founder Bradlee Chang on Xcential’s history, the current (and future) benefits of a Data First approach to lawmaking, and the challenges of modernizing legislative and regulatory processesMore ➔

Read the full interview

Data First Lawmaking Enables True Transparency, Not Just Access to Information

A Data First approach is built on data standardization. Data standards for legislation and regulation are rapidly gaining acceptance around the world because they not only support superior work processes for all drafters and IT professionals, but also enable greater data transparency, accuracy and accessibility for all citizens, from policy analysts to programmers to the academic community. More ➔

Read the full article

NEWS AND UPDATES

New House Rules Envision Data First Drafting and Comparison

The U.S. House of Representatives has adopted its rules for the new 117th Congress - and those rules envision a Data First future for the lower chamber.

Three key changes show that the House intends to keep moving toward a common open data format for all legislative materials, supporting new tools that make legislative work easier for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public.

For example, once legislation is expressed as standardized data, new Data First drafting tools, once implemented, will be able to create amendments by simply redlining the existing text. Data standards also mean that automatic comparison tools can show exactly how an amendment changes a bill and how a bill changes underlying laws.

Xcential is proud to serve the Clerk of the House, the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, and other support offices, creating the tools that use standardized data to secure a Data First future.

The three key changes involve:

  1. Comparative Prints. Subsection (q) removes the requirement, added in the 115th Congress, that prior to the consideration of bills, joint resolutions, and amendments in the nature of a substitute, comparative prints must be made available. However, section 3(j) of this resolution directs the relevant committees and offices of the House to continue efforts to further the institutional priority of enabling all House staff to produce such comparative prints.

  2. Broadening Availability and Utility of Legislative Documents in Machine-Readable Formats. Subsection (j) instructs the Committee on House Administration, the Clerk, and other officers and officials to continue to advance government transparency by taking further steps to publish documents of the House in machine-readable formats and broaden their utility by enabling all House staff to create comparative prints.

  3. Improving the Committee Electronic Document Repository. Subsection (k) directs the Clerk, the Committee on House Administration, and other officers and officials to improve the existing electronic document repository operated by the Clerk for use by committees. Such improvements are intended to increase public availability and identification of legislative information produced by House committees, including votes, amendments, and witness disclosure forms.

Modernization Committee Extended Through 117th Congress

On December 21, 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will be extended through the 117th Congress. Here’s the complete announcement from the Speaker’s Office.

EVENTS AND RESOURCES

The International Conference on Legislation and Law Reform
October 21-22, 2021 | Washington, D.C.

National Association of Legislative Technology Virtual Meetings Series
A continuing series of webinars from the National Association of Legislative Technology, replacing NALIT’s in-person gatherings. The sessions feature legislative technology experts from statehouses around the U.S., focusing on current issues from the latest in bill drafting technology to cybersecurity.

RELACS Virtual Meetings Series
RELACS professional association – a wing of the U.S. National Conference of State Legislatures – is presenting a multi-part series of interactive webinars and virtual meetings geared toward legislative staff who conduct research, draft and edit legislation, examine legal issues, and staff legislative committees. A big focus has been on the transition to remote working for legislative drafters, editors and support staff.

Making Laws in a Post-Modern World: Are You Ready?
The 20th Annual Legislative Drafting Conference of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice this fall focused on the changing technology of legislative drafting and its impact on lawmaking.

LegisTech for Democracy
Bússola Tech, the legislative technology incubator based in São Paulo, marked the International Day for Democracy by gathering presentations from more than 20 Parliament houses around the world, focusing on the rapid technology and legislative data transformations forced by the Covid pandemic.

The Data Coalition
A busy calendar ahead of webinars and online gatherings focused on government data policy, from regulatory and legislative data standard to best practices for government transparency and reporting.

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