IANAL and that's the problem
February 3, 2017 6:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a website or app that provides comprehensive, continually updating, non-partisan information about the official business currently before both houses of U.S. Congress, and I would like it to also provide summaries of the legislation in regular-person-language. Does this exist?

I'm having a hell of a time keeping up with the firehose of awful that is our current legislative situation. All the really detailed, comprehensive sources for current bills on the floor and in committee just give the name, number, and verbatim language of the bill--which is great if you're a lobbyist, Congressional staffer, or journalist who does nothing all day but study this stuff. I usually find these things to be impenetrable. The names of bills are usually blatantly manipulative and/or tortured to make it into a catchy acronym, and the language refers to fifteen other bills that this new bill would amend/expand/repeal, without actually specifying what those other bills are. I don't have staff to summarize this shit for me and look up all the referenced legislation and actually tell me in plan English, "This bill will make $thing legal that was previously illegal."

All the sources I can find that summarize legislation for regular folks are selective about what they present (just the big stuff), and often leave out the bill numbers and official names (making it difficult for me to contact my representatives and ask that they vote one way or another on "that bill I read about where I think the thing will be legal again but I guess it used to be illegal?").

Is there a website or app that does this in a non-partisan (or at least vaguely left-of-center but we're trying our best to be objective), non "We're mainly telling you this so you will give us money to fight it", non-outrage-filter way? And does it update reasonably frequently so that I'm not reading about bills that were voted on three days ago?
posted by soren_lorensen to Law & Government (6 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've found OpenStates to be helpful for bill-tracking on the state level.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2017

Ah, and you're actually looking for federal info. Try GovTrack.us.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:53 AM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone I trust recommended the app Countable to me--you can get it on iOS or android.
posted by stellaluna at 9:03 AM on February 3, 2017

Seconding Countable! I've downloaded it to my iPhone and am very happy with how it keeps me up to date with Congress.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2017

Congress.gov is a good source for information on legislation. This page gives you a sense of what's going on with legislation in recent days:


They do have summaries of legislation (available on the individual pages for each bill), but it takes some time for those to be written. As you can see from the site, it's only the beginning of February, and there have already been close to 800 bills introduced in the House and over 300 in the Senate. You may be interested in their "Most Viewed" page, as many of the most controversial/popular pieces of legislation are listed here:


Some other sources are listed in this Congressional Research Service report ("Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff"):


It's a good list of resources, but many of them are subscription-based. If you have any kind of university affiliation, you may have access to some of them. Otherwise, you'd have to pay for a subscription yourself, which probably is not worth it. There are a few free resources, but they may not give you exactly what you're looking for in terms of non-technical clarity, comprehensiveness, and nonpartisan coverage. Worth looking into though.

The bottom line though (and the reason you're having trouble finding a site like what you want) is that the legislative process is -- as you know -- close to unfathomably complex and extensive. It's definitely a firehose, so I feel your pain. Good luck!
posted by mnumberger at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by squasher at 9:02 PM on February 5, 2017

« Older Pretend I'm 10 -- healthcare insurance between...   |   Estimated Taxes and Moving Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.