Open Data Milestone: 50% of U.S. State Legislatures Open

Justin Houk
May. 13 2011, 08:00AM EDT

Sunlight Labs announced this week that 25 of 50 states are now integrated into its Open States API. This puts machine readable state legislative data covering approximately two thirds of the US population into the hands of developers. In addition to the expanded coverage, the team at Sunlight Labs has also been busy with improvements and new features.

New York was the the 25th state to be added to the project that collects state legislative data and compiles it for distribution through bulk download or a free API. Even with just 25 states the service already offers tremendous value by creating one distribution point and standardized formatting for the information. Data is available by default as JSON. It is also being consumed and served to the public by sites like OpenGovernment.org and MyGov360.

In some ways Sunlight Labs is mirroring successful projects like Transit Score by creating services that no government entity could easily offer. Cross government data services are difficult to create from within government as they fall into a sort of budgetary and jurisdictional no-mans land. This is especially true for information that is created at the state level.

In Addition to the increase in coverage Sunlight Labs announced:

  • Experimental XML output in addition to JSON
  • Customized API responses that allow users to tailor the number of fields returned
  • CSV bulk downloads
  • A new Status Dashboard

Next up for the project is reaching every state to hit 50. The team has also promised to keep innovating and adding more features. You can keep up to date with their progress with the newly created @openstates Twitter account. If you work in a state government and want to participate you should read the online contributing guide.

Justin Houk

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