A Few Small Steps for LIMS, A Giant Leap for Open Government

Both worldwide and nationally, the most popular website is Google (a fact that was rapidly ascertained through the use of Google).  Aficionados of the Council and the Wilson Building have their very own equivalent “go to” site, and our government guru Google is called LIMS, or Legislative Information Management System.  Recent upgrades to LIMS make it not just more usable to the novice user, but also far more useful to experienced “open government” advocates.

 The new site was launched in April 2014, with a recent upgrade on its anniversary. In regards to the scope of the site, the most extensive change to LIMS has been its expansion to cover not just the two-year Council Period that is currently in process, but instead all legislation since 1989. As a result, instead of a few hundred documents being available, fully 33,719 documents are currently searchable.

Of the 2015 upgrades, of most interest to open government advocates will likely be the “Councilmember Voting Search” feature (accessed via the “Advanced Search” page).  Through creative use of this feature, residents can examine the totality of their councilmember’s voting record, see which councilmembers have voted “no” on measures that ultimately passed, who was absent for which votes, etc.

To LIMS novices, a number of new features meant to facilitate use of the site will likely be most popular:

  • On the “Bill History” page, a new feature allows users to “hover” their cursor over jargon such as “enrollment,” “engrossment,” “committee report,” etc. and see in layman’s terms what these words mean.
  • From the “basic search” page, there is now a “most visited” link, so citizens can see which bills are searched the most often.
  • Similarly, from that same page, there is a link to “latest laws,” so citizens can see which pieces of legislation have most recently completed their labyrinthine path through the District’s legislative process.
  • All search results are easily exported as Excel spreadsheets and PDF documents, for easy saving, printing, and analysis.

Moving forward, on an ongoing basis, the Council will continue to make technological changes that make our work easier to understand, and interact with.  We will work to ensure that both political neophytes and those who are in constant contact with the Council receive the support they require.