The post describes the U.S. Government Printing Office’s making available United States Statutes at Large, 1951-2009, with full text for individual statutes in PDF and .txt formats, and for entire volumes in PDF format, and metadata for individual statutes and in bulk for each volume in MODS format.
Here are excerpts from the post:
The GPO’s recent electronic publication of all legislation enacted by Congress from 1951-2009 is noteworthy for several reasons. It makes available nearly 40 years of lawmaking that wasn’t previously available online from any official source, narrowing part of a much larger information gap. It meets one of three long-standing directives from Congress’s Joint Committee on Printing regarding public access to important legislative information. And it has published the information in a way that provides a platform for third-party providers to cleverly make use of the information. While more work is still needed to make important legislative information available to the public, this online release is a useful step in the right direction. […]
In mid-January 2013, GPO published approximately 32,000 individual documents, along with descriptive metadata, including all bills enacted into law, joint concurrent resolutions that passed both chambers of Congress, and presidential proclamations from 1951-2009. The documents have traditionally been published in print in volumes known as the “Statutes at Large,” which commonly contain all the materials issued during a calendar year. […]’
The online release of the Statutes at Large from 1951 forward, accompanied by good quality metadata, has made it possible for the public to see important (and not so important) legislation. […] Of course, the major New Deal legislation, such as the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, and anything from the last quarter of the 19th century, is still unavailable from GPO. And GPO/LOC still hasn’t incorporated the information it has released onto THOMAS. However, the free legislative information portal GovTrack already jumped in with both feet, incorporating this information on its website where users can easily search and find historical bills going back to 1951.
Depending on the quality of the searchable PDFs GPO has posted, it may also be just a matter of time before someone pull out the text from the PDFs and puts it into a database, too. That would improve the ability to search for bills and facilitate analysis of congressional activities. It also moves us one step closer to a very difficult but important goal: allowing people to see in real time how draft legislation would amend the law. For that to be possible, GPO would need to publish the Statutes at Large from prior to 1951 online in electronic form, including making clear the underlying structure of the statutes, plus there’d have to be some pretty significant advances in the tools available to parse legislative language. […]
For more details, please see the complete post.