By Allison McCartney and Jeremy B. Merrill, ProPublica
If you’re a user of Represent, our congressional news app, or a developer who uses our Congress API, we’ve got some new features to tell you about. On Represent, we’ve added new pages for every state’s delegation (here’s Arizona) and redesigned bill category pages, like legislation about environmental protection, to provide more useful information. You also can search the full text of bills by keyword or phrase.
Let’s say you’re a reporter in Kentucky covering health care. Your representatives have been at the center of the recent health care debate. Represent already makes it easy to see what lawmakers such as Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul or Andy Barr are individually saying about the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but we’re now making it easier to keep track of all of the members of your state’s delegation in one place.
You can see your state’s current congressional members and a stream of their activities from the past two weeks. The stream shows members’ statements, any activity on a piece of legislation they’ve sponsored, and articles written about them in local and national publications, courtesy of Google News. It is filterable by the member’s party and the type of activity.
To see what McConnell is saying about the Republican health care bill, what WLKY Louisville is publishing about John Yarmuth, or what’s happening with Paul’s latest legislation, you can just check out the Kentucky state delegation page. This makes it easier for local and state reporters to track congressional activity relevant to their audience, and for voters to keep tabs on their representatives.
It can be easy to miss important things that happen on Capitol Hill if they aren’t covered widely in the press. While the House’s effort to pass the American Health Care Act garnered headlines, Congress has also been hard at work voting on other health care-related bills. It was easy for somebody interested in health to miss the House recently passing the Protecting Access to Care Act, which was just as partisan a vote as the AHCA.
To make it easier to track all bills in specific topic areas, we’re launching an update to our bill category pages. The update makes it easier to see where important bills are in the passage process by separating bills that have been signed into law from those that have been recently voted on. We’ve updated the visualizations to more easily compare vote margins, and added more information about sponsors and cosponsors.
Take a look at the Economics and Public Finance page to see how budget proposal bills are faring, or the Government Operations and Politics page to find resolutions urging inquiry into President Trump’s records and finances.
We’ve also updated the recent bill actions feed to include filters for the party, state and chamber of Congress of the bill’s sponsor, making it easier for readers and reporters to track bills important to their interests.
If you want to dive deeper into health-related bills to focus on those mentioning “pre-existing conditions,” Represent has you covered, too. Although such conditions are an important part of health insurance proposals, pre-existing conditions don’t always make it into the titles or summaries of bills. Now you can search the full text of every bill since 2013 for anything you’re interested in — like “preexisting.”
You’ll find a variety of bills from the current session of Congress, from a Democratic resolution “Urging the President to faithfully carry out the Affordable Care Act” to a Republican’s “Guaranteed Health Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions Act of 2017” (which would take effect “upon repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”), along with a variety of bills about flood insurance.
Or if it’s lunchtime and your tastes are more light-hearted, you can simply search “pizza”— and you’ll find the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017, a bill that aims to change nutrition labeling requirements for “standard menu items” — like pizza — that “come in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, but which are listed as a single menu item.”
The same full-text bill search is now in the Congress API, too, along with a number of beefed-up responses for bills and members. The details about individual bills now contain the complete summary, if available, and we’ve added additional details about sponsors to bill list responses. Our subjects’ responses now include values indicating whether a given subject has bills or statements associated with it. Finally, we’ve replaced empty strings with null values where appropriate. You can see a more detailed changelog here.
A reminder to users of the Sunlight Congress API that it will be shut down after Aug. 31, 2017. We’re encouraging Sunlight users to switch to the ProPublica Congress API. Bill text search was one of the last major features to add to the ProPublica Congress API, and once we finish API responses for amendment and upcoming bills the process of merging features from the Sunlight API into our own will be complete. We’ll have more updates to the ProPublica Congress API in the next month.