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New Government Website Gives Constituents A Say On Legislation
OpinaPR.com provides info on legislative measures; accepts votes and comments
By JOANISABEL GONZALEZ-VELAZQUEZ
June 6, 2004
When attorney Elba Rodriguez set out to create a website to keep local constituents informed of the goings-on in the Legislature, she never imagined it would so quickly become an essential resource for thousands. After only a year in operation, OpinaPR.com (www.opinapr.com), developed by the governments Legislative Services Office, has received more than 35,000 hits.
"I was interested in creating a user-friendly website where people could find out what is happening with particular bills," said Rodriguez, who has headed the Legislative Services Office since 2002.
Last year, Rodriguez and her team decided to create OpinaPR.com to allow Internet users to search for any bill filed in the Senate or the House and get a summary of the measure, the name of the legislator who submitted it, the name of the committee evaluating it, and any dates for public hearings.
Perhaps the best part about OpinaPR.com is that it allows visitors to vote on the bills and make comments, including suggested amendments. The site offers free access; only a valid e-mail address is required for registration.
"Every Monday, we prepare a report with the registered votes per bill and gather all comments. We send the reports to the appropriate committees evaluating the bills for their analysis and consideration," said Rodriguez.
Two weeks ago, dozens of comments and votes were registered on House Bill 4476, which would allow optometrists in Puerto Rico to prescribe medicines for the treatment of visual conditions, as optometrists on the U.S. mainland can. Rodriguez said some users dont vote on bills but visit the site often, which indicates they are tracking what lawmakers do.
The website was designed by Microjuris Puerto Rico, which manages the digital data on all the laws and regulations enacted by the local government. The Legislative Services Office pays nearly $30,000 a year to update and maintain the website.
Rodriguez also said the Legislature has invested $4 million in a new computer system to speed legislative proceedings and ensure the digital connectivity of both legislative bodies and administrative offices. For years, she said, the Legislature has lacked a reliable computer system.
"It was common to hear that people couldnt work because systems or servers were down. We have been able to acquire a sophisticated network that includes three new servers, and we integrated other legislative offices spread across many buildings in Puerta de Tierra," said Rodriguez.
To create and install the new network, the Legislative Services Office called for bids on the project last year. SAP Puerto Rico won the bid and is already installing some of the equipment. The system should be ready by November.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.