Track­ing pants (and other) bills in Va.

Some of the re­gion’s best blog­gers share work on the All Opin­ions Are Lo­cal blog. Be­low, one of last week’s posts.

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - Paige Win­field Cunningham, Old Do­min­ion Watchdog

I’ve found the most hi­lar­i­ous bill filed for the Vir­ginia Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion that be­gan yes­ter­day, thanks to the bill-track­ing Web site Rich­mond Sun­light.

It’s a House res­o­lu­tion to com­mend a Hampton high school for launch­ing an ... anti-sag­ging cam­paign? No, it’s not an ef­fort to pro­mote face-lifts; it’s got to do with those ex­tremely low-rise pants that sub­ject up­right cit­i­zens to un­de­sir­able sight­ings of teenagers’, um, draw­ers. Ap­par­ently, the se­nior class pres­i­dent of Ke­cough­tan High School ini­ti­ated the cam­paign last March to teach stu­dents that they can’t wear saggy pants and be suc­cess­ful in the real world.

Del. Al­gie T. How­ell Jr. ( D-Nor­folk) is ap­par­ently thrilled that a young­ster is tak­ing up the torch. Back in 2005, he in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would have im­posed a $50 fine on peo­ple who showed their un­der­wear in a “ lewd or in­de­cent man­ner.” While that bill failed, maybe How­ell will at least suc­ceed in his ef­forts this year to of­fi­cially com­mend Ke­cough­tan’s anti-sag­ging cam­paign.

Ob­vi­ously, most bills aren’t so amus­ing. But Rich­mond Sun­light makes them all ac­ces­si­ble and in­cred­i­bly easy to track. You can look up bills by num­ber, topic, leg­is­la­tor and year and view at a glance whether they’ve made it through com­mit­tee, been voted on by the House or Se­nate or been signed into law by the gover­nor.

Waldo Jaquith, the 31-year-old brain be­hind the site, cre­ated it to be in­ter­ac­tive as well. Vis­i­tors can com­ment on bills. And there’s a new fea­ture this year called Pho­to­syn­the­sis, where you can sign up and make pub­lic the bills you’re track­ing.

Jaquith cre­ated the site about four years ago be­cause he was frus­trated with the de­fi­cien­cies of the state’s of­fi­cial site, the Leg­isla­tive In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem. While the LIS has re­cently re­ceived a makeover, it still doesn’t of­fer easy ac­cess to leg­is­la­tors’ vot­ing records. While you can look up records by bill num­ber, you can’t view them by name.

Dels. Jim LeMun­yon ( R-Fair­fax) and Mark Keam ( DFair­fax) are try­ing to rem­edy that by float­ing a bill that would re­quire all votes taken by House and Se­nate mem­bers to be dis­played on­line and be search­able by mem­ber name.

That’s great — ex­cept that you can al­ready do that at Rich­mond Sun­light. If the LIS is go­ing to start play­ing catch-up with Sun­light, it’s got a lot of miles to travel. It will need to cre­ate mem­ber pro­files that show maps of their dis­tricts, how much they work with the op­po­site party and the per­cent­age of bills they get passed — to name just a few com­po­nents.

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