Legislando (“Legislating”) is an application that lets citizens make suggestions for bills, as well as support and follow other collaborative proposals, and see them through approval by the Municipal House and Legislative Assemblies. The tool, which intends to be a kind of "political social network," was introduced in São Paulo, Brazil on Monday April 27, 2015 by Rede Nossa Cidades (Our Cities Network). The organization's main objective is to bring people closer to the decision making process. “Why wait for the changes if we can go after them?” asks the platform website.
In addition to ordinary citizens, the platform will also include participation by council members and state deputies, initially from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lawmakers will have a section on the page to welcome suggestions for bills made by the voters. The app even allows for lawmakers to include proposals which can receive suggestions or improvements from the citizens.
When a politician adopts a proposal, he must make a commitment to present it in the legislative house in which he is serving. Up to a certain time set by the author of the proposal, online participants may make suggestions for changes and amendments to the presented bills.
The tool focuses on local and state issues. “National issues get more attention. They have campaigns and mobilization. As for city issues, we do not win many supporters,” said Guilherme Coelho, Coordinator of the “Mobilizers of the My Sampa network.” My Sampa is a network of mobilizers who defend the right for São Paulo citizens to exercise influence on decisions about the city.
Coelho said the current institutional policy is overdue. There is a need to create environments where citizens can intervene in a more direct way, which is the proposition of Legislando. According to Nossa Cidades, the form of institutional policy prevents the democratic system from working in practice. At the federal level, only four bills have become popular initiative laws today. The most recent was the “Clean Slate Act” of 2010.
The organizers of the app, however, need to worry about potentially receiving unconstitutional suggestions from the website users. “We do not have a filter for inappropriate content. If a proposal is unconstitutional or breaks any other law, then we send a standard message and archive the suggestion,” he said.
Among the bills that are already registered is one that proposes to create a program to reuse water at gas stations and car washes. Another suggests instituting the progressive Urban Building and Land Tax (IPTU) that currently exists in Rio. There is also a proposal to allow a digital signature on popular initiative bills. And there’s even one that wishes to create the program “Plazas for Friends of Dogs” -- specific locations to bring pets.
After it debuts in São Paulo and Rio, Legislando should soon arrive in Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Recife. According to the coordinator of the Mobilizers of the My Sampa network, the platform was based upon the U.S. incubator model. The group, which claims to have partisan connections, maintains Legislando through donations from individuals and corporations.
What is the easiest way to share your opinions with politicians in your community? Does your community have a website or app to share suggestions with politicians? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.