Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California) is chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. As such, issues of openness and transparency are high on his agenda. One of his interests is making the markup of legislation (hearings were bills are debated, amended and approved before the full House or Senate votes) available for public comment.
Issa recently introduced a markup platform called MADISON (scroll down), and this week put it to the test. As part of the marathon, 2-day markup of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Issa set up Keep The Web Open. Visiting that site you can review the SOPA bill, as well as an alternative Issa prefers, called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). If you set up an account, you can submit edits and comments on either bill.
(A note of warning. The SOPA markup went for 12 hours today – December 15 – and will continue on the 16th. Visiting Keep The Web Open during business hours on the 16th will open video of the hearing.)
Having public markup capability is great, but much like the We the People petitions program, there is no guarantee that public support for changes will ensure they take place. I certainly wouldn’t make edits without also contacting my local Congressional members to make my concerns known. But such markup tools will allow Congress to gauge public reaction and the public will have one more way to access legislation currently under consideration.
How will this markup site matter in the debate over the SOPA legislation? There are too many factors affecting a bill to be sure on any bill, but the amount of attention placed on this bill (and its Senate companion) suggest that a more ‘ordinary’ bill might be a better test case to gauge interest and test the functionality and usability of MADISON.