How Listening to NPR Helped Me At Work

I’m building a really neat little project at work: the ability for users to contact their state or federal legislators for a campaign that my company is running to advocate for/against some issue. A big part of my job includes evaluating specs and making both technical and business recommendations. Here’s a quick list of feedback I gave the our policy team based on my knowledge of American government, mostly garnered through years of listening to NPR.

  • Not all policy is decided by Congress/state legislature. Often, laws cover sweeping concepts and actual implementation is defined by the relevant agency. For example, the Clean Water Act enabled the EPA to set whatever rules it deemed necessary to protect water sources. This project will not encompass emailing agency heads, so that needs to be kept in mind when determining the scope of this new feature.
  • We shouldn’t include the governor/POTUS on the list of legislators to email because they don’t (usually) vote on legislation and therefore a generic email that is sent to all the user’s legislators would be irrelevant and nonsensical.
  • Not every state has a bicameral legislature; Nebraska is unicameral. Therefore, should we wish to limit future state campaigns to one level, we need to code an exception for Nebraska. This affects delivery date and requires specific testing.
  • Some states have different names for their upper and lower levels than House of Representatives and Senate. Before committing to the ability to limit state campaigns to one level, I need to research whether the API we use to retrieve legislator data returns a generic upper/lower/ value or whether I need to code in a map to translate this. This affects delivery date and requires specific testing.