RFC: An API for the Georgia General Assembly

Posted by Matt Farmer on August 03, 2013 · 3 mins read

In the internet technology world, a Request for Comments (RFC) is a memorandum issued to by the Internet Engineering Task Force for peer review and generally are the framework from which a discussion about a new internet standard starts. In this same tradition, I’m reaching out to the internet to request comments on a fun little side project I’m working on: An API for the activities of the Georgia General Assembly.

The Georgia General Assembly, the state legislative body for the State of Georgia, publishes information on all their votes, bills, and other activities. Yet, none of this information is available in a structured format that makes it easy to analyze. Typically researchers will comb over the archaic pages of the General Assembly’s site to find what they need. 

I find this atrocious in 2013. As a citizen in the information age, I should be able to go to an authoritative resource, enter a representatives name, and get links to real concrete information about them. What they voted for, against, press opinions, what bills they introduce, and so on. The General Assembly website provides some of this functionality, but it’s incredibly limited in what you can do and is only presented in a format designed for humans. The development of applications that can crunch this data and provide intelligence on top of it simply isn’t there. 

So, I’m taking the first step in that direction. I’m developing an API for the Georgia General Assembly. A few days ago I started pushing some plumbing for an application called galegis-api to my GitHub account. My plan for this application is for it to live in the cloud somewhere and periodically scrape the Georgia General Assembly site, recording the information in a structured format that can be analyzed and understood by applications. It will then expose the structured information to the world by the use of a public API, available for anyone to use in building a website or program that wants to analyze the activities of the General Assembly.

That’s where you come in. Today, I finished writing the specification of the API I want to build on the project wiki. I want feedback. What do you love about it? What sucks about it? What can I do better? Click through the pages I’ve got on the wiki, and leave me some comment love here letting me know what you think.

Lastly, if you feel so inclined as to help with this project, get in touch. Never hurts to have an extra pair of hands.  The first step to a better government, is a step towards more transparent one. Let’s take that step together.