A very real obstacle to putting up state code websites is getting a copy of that state’s laws. For example, there’s a New Jersey group that wants to set up The State Decoded for their state. But, like most states, New Jersey doesn’t provide bulk downloads—it’s not possible to simply get a raw copy of the files. The backup option is what’s known as “screen-scraping”—having software load every single law on the official state law website, one by way, and copy the laws from there. This is a terrible solution, but it’s all that’s available in most U.S. states. The New Jersey statutes website is distinctly un-scrapeable. I don’t know that it’s impossible, but it would be an unpleasant task.
Today, Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.org tweeted the news that he’s got five new state codes online as bulk data:
Source, including XML-encoded text, for state codes. fax.org/M1Uw2O Includes Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi.
— Carl Malamud (@carlmalamud) May 30, 2013
In addition to bulk machine-readable files, they’re also available in a variety of file formats on Archive.org. They join the Maryland and Washington D.C. codes that he’s already made available as bulk downloads. (Maryland Decoded is up now, and the Open Law DC project has a great site for their code, with a State Decoded implementation under development that’ll be the subject of a hackathon on Saturday’s National Day of Civic Hacking.)
Now the onus is on folks in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, and Mississippi to set up to the plate and put this data to work. Who’s going to implement The State Decoded in these states?