Archive for September, 2013

New Feature: Definitions of Legal Terminology

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Richmond Sunlight does a lot to help people understand legislation and the legislative process, but one place where it falls down is showing the actual text of bills. That’s because bills are confusing. People have a hard time understanding them.

There are a few things we’ve done to make them more understandable. The first thing was to show text proposed to be deleted as crossed out text and text proposed to be added as highlighted text. The second thing was to make any mention of a law in the Code of Virginia into a link, like such:

Hover Example

That’s to help people understand the context of proposed changes.

The third and most recent change is to provide definitions for any legal terminology, including those terms that have already been given specific definitions by the General Assembly, like such:

Dictionary Term

You can see an example of this in action on 2013’s HB1438, but it’s available on any bill for which there are defined terms.

These definitions are provided via Virginia Decoded, a year-old site in the Richmond Sunlight family. Any terms that have definitions have a light, dotted line underneath them. Simply pass your mouse over the term to see its definition.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done to make bills more understandable, and the addition of definitions is a good step in that direction.