When Lobbyists Write Legislation,…

When Lobbyists Write Legislation, This Data Mining Tool Traces The Paper Trail by Jessica Leber.

From the post:

Most kids learn the grade school civics lesson about how a bill becomes a law. What those lessons usually neglect to show is how legislation today is often birthed on a lobbyist’s desk.

But even for expert researchers, journalists, and government transparency groups, tracing a bill’s lineage isn’t easy—especially at the state level. Last year alone, there were 70,000 state bills introduced in 50 states. It would take one person five weeks to even read them all. Groups that do track state legislation usually focus narrowly on a single topic, such as abortion, or perhaps a single lobby groups.

Computers can do much better. A prototype tool, presented in September at Bloomberg’s Data for Good Exchange 2015 conference, mines the Sunlight Foundation’s database of more than 500,000 bills and 200,000 resolutions for the 50 states from 2007 to 2015. It also compares them to 1,500 pieces of “model legislation” written by a few lobbying groups that made their work available, such as the conservative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the liberal group the State Innovation Exchange (formerly called ALICE).

Jessica gives a great overview of Legislative Influence Detector (LID). That wasn’t how I heard “lid” in my youth but even acronyms change meaning over time. 😉

Legislative Influence Detector (LID) has this introduction at its website:

Journalists, researchers, and concerned citizens would like to know who’s actually writing legislative bills. But trying to read those bills, let alone trace their source, is tedious and time consuming. This is especially true at the state level, where important policy decisions are made every day. State legislatures consider roughly 70,000 bills each year, covering taxes, education, healthcare, crime, transportation, and more.

To solve this problem, we have created a tool we call the “Legislative Influence Detector” (LID, for short). LID helps watchdogs turn a mountain of text into digestible insights about the origin and diffusion of policy ideas and the real influence of various lobbying organizations. LID draws on more than 500,000 state bills (collected by the Sunlight Foundation) and 2,400 pieces of model legislation written by lobbyists (collected by us, ALEC Exposed, and other groups), searches for similarities, and flags them for review. LID users can then investigate the matches to look for possible lobbyist and special interest influence.

Improvements are planned and I am sure help would be welcome.

Looks like a great tool for public influencing of legislation, that is an identifiable group with posted proposed legislation.

Not quite so great for detecting the influencing of legislation as reflected in details of statutes.

Yes, there is a reason why the income tax laws in the United States are nearly 75,000 pages long. Each detail, exception, qualifier is there at the behest of some interest group.

The same is true with the rest of the United States Code but the benefits are more immediately obvious with tax law.

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