Someday, you may be able to view a Congressional hearing on your smartphone and then participate in the crowd-sourcing of questions for lawmakers and witnesses. The Congressional Hackathon held last month also envisioned a legislative process where constituents could read and comment on proposed laws, essentially particpating in a public mark-up process.
In the shorter term, Congress should release legislative data to allow third-party programmers to develop apps and better interfaces, according to recommendations made in a report released Tuesday about the first-ever Congressional Hackathon.
The December event brought together some of the country's top programmers and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss ways technology could improve the legislative process. The report also recommended that Congress improve the reliability of committee video and continue to improve communications with developers.
Lawmakers want desktop and mobile applications that would better help voters and constituents use Congressional data. They said a system much like the models being used by public transit systems in many systems where schedule data is made available to programmers could keep costs low.
"Increased access, increased connection with our constituents, transparency and openness are not partisan issues," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who organized the event with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in remarks published in the report. "There are a lot of hearings, discussions, deliberations - not only in the chambers of the Capitol, but in the committee rooms and the subcommittee rooms - that frankly a lot of people may be interested in."
Other proposals in the report included:
- Easier ways to view what portions of a bill a lawmaker wrote or edited.
- Real-time voting updates for Senators and Representatives.
- The use of a Storify-like system to keep updates of ongoing issues.
- Better tracking of casework filed with Congressional offices.
- Social media press conferences.