Senator Asks Web For Legislation Help

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Something very cool is happening. Something historic. For the first time in American history the people are being directly consulted about legislation, and it’s being done via the Internet.

For four nights, beginning Tuesday, July 24, 2007, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will be interacting with the American public, seeking ideas and feedback about a national broadband strategy on the blog OpenLeft.com. Durbin says he will use the information gleaned in the comments section there to help draft broadband legislation.

"There are two reasons I’m asking for your help and participation," writes Senator Durbin. "The first is because I think we need more public participation and transparency in the way Congress crafts significant legislation. 

"This is an approach to legislation that has never been tried before.  If it’s successful — as I believe it will be — it may become the way lawmakers approach drafting bills on other issues like education, health care, and foreign policy.

"The second reason I’m doing this is because broadband policy is one of the most important public policy issues today.  Frankly, America does not have a national broadband strategy, and we are falling behind."

Durbin says he has three principles in mind to guide discussion: universal and affordable broadband access; preservation of online innovation; and furthering the democratic process via broadband technology.

Proponents as well as detractors call Durbin’s plan "an experiment," both sides disagreeing on whether the general public has a place at the legislative table among policy experts, lobbyists, and special interest groups. Durbin hopes to prove that there is a place for them.

"At stake is not a set of wonky policy details," writes Matt Stoller, both an advocate for Network Neutrality and Durbin, "but a fundamental vision of how Americans communicate and relate to each other.

"Legislating is often known as a sausage factory, or a contest of interests done in private.  And in fact, I think a lot of the negative impressions of our lawmaking bodies comes from the secrecy of the process.  With the internet, we can put everyone and every lobbyist on a level playing field, and have a genuinely open contest of ideas."

Stoller’s words also appear on OpenLeft.com, aptly titled "Legislation 2.0."

Senator Asks Web For Legislation Help
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