On Friday, the Utah House of Representatives passed the first Universal School Voucher bill in the nation. The bill is destined to become law according John Fund in the Wall Street Journal and was also the first real test of wikifying the legislative process.
Mr. Urquhart was so confident of his math that he started an interactive Web site modeled after the interactive encyclopedia Wikipedia. He posted his bill on it and invited comments. Thousands of people logged on to www.politicopia.com and participated. "If anyone can show evidence (not just alarmist rhetoric) that public education does not come out financially ahead with this bill, post your arguments and data in the comment section," Mr. Urquhart challenged his readers. No one was able to effectively rebut him.
In an email, Representative Steve Urquhart noted to me:
"For six years we've been chasing our tail on this bill, and today the bill passed in very large part because of Politicopia. When private dialogue was made public, the main area of criticism was publicly revealed to be fictitious. Only that kind of sunlight forced critics to abandon a criticism they knew to be false. When the debate turned to actual policy and actual issues, the bill advanced."
I personally haven't been a supporter of school vouchers, but have learned a lot from watching this debate. I also vote Democrat, but am a toolmaker that believes that even if Socialtext is used by the other side -- not only do both sides win, but the constituents they serve. I got into this business to change the world, and I think helping put a bill into law through deliberation is one step forward.
So, you can help me with my particular passion for opening the legislative process. I'm looking for suggestions and connections to other legislative bodies that should implement this solution.