By Brendan Sasso - 09/20/12 01:03 AM EDT
The Library of Congress on Wednesday unveiled Congress.gov, a new site that will allow members of the public to learn about past and pending legislation.
The site, which offers bill summaries, bill texts and vote tallies, will eventually replace THOMAS, Congress’s current legislative database.
The new site features a dramatically overhauled search engine, which allows users to search across numerous years. THOMAS required users to specify a particular congressional session.
Search results are now sorted by relevance instead of bill number. Users can narrow the results by choosing to view measures only from particular parties, committees, years or other categories.
Congress.gov also features multimedia presentations on the legislative process and provides a glossary of legislative terms.
“Congress.gov will enhance transparency, increase savings for the Library and provide Congress and the nation the vital legislative information we need to deliberate about our collective public policies,” said Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
Lungren called Congress.gov a “worthy successor” to THOMAS, which was launched in 1995 and named for Thomas Jefferson. The site now receives about 10 million visits each year.
“This new, more robust platform reaffirms for the 21st century Congress’s vision of a vital legislative information resource for all Americans,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said. “It is fitting that we announce this new resource within days of Constitution Day, celebrating the establishment of our representative democracy.”
He said upgrading the service reflects the Library’s goal to “open the legislative process to the American people and promote an informed democracy.”
The new site will be in beta testing for about one year, according to the Library. During that time, THOMAS and the congressional Legislative Information System will continue to operate normally.
The Library plans to eventually introduce more data, including the Congressional Record, committee reports, nominations, treaties and communications, on the site.
— Updated at 9:03 p.m.