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Re: [govtrack] When bill status is uncertain

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  • Josh Tauberer
    ... Hi, Yeah, I agree that capturing these nuances is important. I had never really looked closely at that Note field in THOMAS. Hmm. -- - Josh Tauberer -
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 12, 2008
      Peggy Garvin wrote:
      > This gets back to the legislative process/sausage-making comparison.
      > It can be difficult, or deceptive, to try to "normalize" the dynamism of
      > the President v. Congress, or congressional majority v. congressional
      > minority. A database can only go so far, and then editorial commentary
      > is needed - imho.
      > That is where the THOMAS "note" field comes in handy. As you see in
      > the note field re H.R. 1585: "On 12/28/2007, the President announced
      > that he was withholding approval of this bill." Not terribly informative,
      > but not blatantly misleading either. Providers of legislative information
      > need to adopt their own policies on how to handle these challenges to
      > the norm. There will always be an unexpected challenge, as with President
      > Bill Clinton's test of the item veto after Congress, surprisingly, approved
      > such a procedure.

      Hi,

      Yeah, I agree that capturing these nuances is important.

      I had never really looked closely at that Note field in THOMAS. Hmm.

      --
      - Josh Tauberer
      - GovTrack.us

      http://razor.occams.info

      "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
      falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
      Tortoise (in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)


      >
      > Peggy
      >
      >
      > ----- Original Message ----
      > From: Josh Tauberer <tauberer@...>
      > To: GovTrack List <govtrack@yahoogroups.com>
      > Sent: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 9:42:56 PM
      > Subject: [govtrack] When bill status is uncertain
      >
      > (Posted at:
      > http://www.theopenhouseproject.com/2008/01/09/procedural-uncertainty-normalization/)
      >
      > I always find it interesting how although our government is run by
      > fairly strict procedural rules that have been written out in various
      > places, starting with the constitution and ending somewhere past the
      > horizon, sometimes it’s just impossible to locate exactly at what point
      > in the procedural game “reality” is. For instance, the constitution
      > outlines how a bill can become a law. But, at what point is a bill
      > considered vetoed? If the president is signing the veto signature but
      > misspells “veto” (or whatever he writes in this case, I have no idea),
      > or is taken to the hospital before he writes the “o”, is the bill
      > vetoed, or is it still awaiting a signature?
      >
      > The reason this is interesting to me is that we like to capture reality
      > in data. The Library of Congress and GovTrack both systematize (or in
      > computer jargon “normalize”) the bill-becomes-a-law process. At every
      > point in the game, a bill, in our data formats, is either in-progress,
      > enacted, dead, etc. It must be in one of these states. After all, the
      > constitution outlines exactly what states a bill can be in, so any bill
      > *must* be in one of these states.
      >
      > But if we’re not sure what state a bill is in, what state do we put it
      > in in our data? There’s also the more important question- What do the
      > lawmakers do if they disagree about what state a bill is in? (Actually,
      > I would prefer to phrase it as “what state they are in”, but that’s
      > another story.) Wikipedia describes (what the editors of the page claim
      > is) a current debacle over H.R. 1585: National Defense Authorization Act
      > FY 2008:
      >
      > In December of 2007, President George W. Bush pushed the pocket
      > veto into murky waters by claiming that he had pocket vetoed H.R. 1585,
      > the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” even
      > though the House of Representatives had designated agents to receive
      > presidential messages before adjourning. The bill had been previously
      > passed by veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate [JT:
      > and thus a traditional veto would have been futile].
      >
      > So was the bill (pocket) vetoed or not? Is the bill still in-progress?
      > Assuming it was not pocket vetoed, after 10 legislative days without a
      > traditional veto it becomes law, and us citizens would hate to be on
      > that 11th day without either resolution on the pocket veto matter or a
      > traditional veto, because then we as a country will not know whether
      > this bill has become law. (Another question: How might the Supreme Court
      > assert jurisdiction over this question.)
      >
      > But back to the data. At one point, some time after Dec. 28, someone in
      > the House responsible for updating the bill status information shown on
      > THOMAS entered a new status line:
      >
      > Dec 28, 2007: Pocket Vetoed by President.
      >
      > GovTrack picked up on the change and shows that status currently, much
      > to the confusion of several people emailing me about it. Looking back at
      > THOMAS, it seems like someone realized that that was apparently quite a
      > constitutional (if not political) claim and retracted that update,
      > because it not longer says that.
      >
      > In many cases citizens complain when the government takes things back,
      > hiding information previously made public. That’s definitely not what I
      > am getting at here. THOMAS is forced to show *something*, and when it
      > doubt… well, what can you do but roll back history until we figure out
      > what the next legislative step actually *was*.
      >
      >
      > --
      > - Josh Tauberer
      > - GovTrack.us <http://GovTrack.us>
      >
      > http://razor.occams.info
      >
      > "Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation! Yields
      > falsehood when preceded by its quotation!" Achilles to
      > Tortoise (in "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter)
      >
      >
      >
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      > mailto:govtrack-fullfeatured@yahoogroups.com
      > <mailto:govtrack-fullfeatured@yahoogroups.com>
      >
      >
      >
      >
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