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Cornell College and the League of Women Voters of Iowa are privileged to have the opportunity to work with the Iowa General Assembly to provide information on the legislative process to the citizens of Iowa. This joint project continues a long commitment of the League of Women Voters of Iowa (since 1920) and Cornell College (since 1853) to the education of the citizens of Iowa.

History of the Joint Project

In the late spring of 1994, a representative of the League of Women Voters of Iowa approached Cornell College with a proposal for Cornell to sponsor a World Wide Web server for the League that would provide information of interest to the voters of Iowa. The server was to provide a platform to experiment with this new technology to determine how best it could be used to educate the voters of Iowa. With the volunteer efforts of several individuals, particularly Abbi Swanson, the state President of the League in 1994, and James Freeman, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Cornell, a prototype server was developed.

The initial materials on this server consisted of (1) publications of local Iowa Leagues, (2) other nonpartisan League publications, (3) publications obtained with permission from the Legislative Information Office of the Iowa General Assembly, (4) and interactive maps of the state of Iowa that could be used to find a voter's representative. This initial prototype was shown to staff members of the Iowa General Assembly on June 10, 1994 by Swanson and Freeman. At that meeting, the commitment was made by the developers to provide material relating to the General Assembly at no cost. Discussion centered on the willingness of the General Assembly to place the materials on their own server at a future time.

Over the next six months development on this server continued with donated labor. Professor Freeman gave another presentation on WWW technology in the fall of 1994 to General Assembly staff. With the cooperation of the Legislative Information Office and the majority leaders in both the House and the Senate, software to automate adding links and installing daily calendars was developed during the first session of the 76th General Assembly.

During the summer of 1995, Swanson and Freeman continued to work with the General Assembly to develop new software to automate the process of formatting and adding hyperlinks of different types of legislative information. Programs to handle bills and amendments, bill history, journals, and the Iowa Code were developed. A contract was signed between the General Assembly, the League and Cornell. It was designed to protect the intellectual investment of Cornell and the League and to insure that the fruits of this investment would be shared with the citizens of Iowa at no cost. The entire development costs of the software developed under this joint project have been underwritten by Cornell, the League and donated labor. At no time during the duration of this project has Cornell, the League, or any individual working on the project received financial support from the General Assembly.

Design Considerations

The design of the material for this project was based on several factors. First, the materials needed to be easily maintained. Designs specific to any particular browsers were not used. In addition, the material was to be accessible to everyone, regardless of the browser being used. As a result, only "standard" HTML tags were used. Because of the recent rapid increase in browsers that can handle tables, certain HTML 3.0 constructs that are considered stable are now being used. Most files are now being verified to insure they satisfy the HTML 3.0 standard. Another major concern was that the data needed to be usable in the near future. It was felt that storing the data in ASCII format with relatively simple markup was the best way to insure the usefulness of the data.

If you have questions concerning the design decisions made for this project, address them to freeman@Cornell-Iowa.edu.


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Last update: Wed Dec 20 23:43:38 CST 1995
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