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a photo of Barbara Perkins at Machu Picchu with mountains in the background
Barbara Perkins. Photo by CJ Perkins.

A Congress.gov Interview with Barbara Perkins, Head, Legislative Analysis and Services Section

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Today’s Congress.gov interview is with Barbara Perkins, head of the Legislative Analysis and Services Section of the Office of Legislative Information Services in the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Describe your background.

I grew up in Tampa, Florida. I went to Florida State University, which was an amazing experience. It was the first time I was surrounded by endless opportunities to learn. After that, I went to Georgetown for law school and ended up working at a firm in New York for a few years. I was very happy to return to the D.C. area and work for the Library of Congress and CRS, where there is an opportunity to learn something new every day.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I lead a small, dedicated team of people who help Congress.gov users find—and, more importantly, understand—the legislative information they are looking for. Our team makes legislative information more available and accessible, including by analyzing legislative changes and translating them into plain English so that they can be more readily understood by a broad audience.

In other words, we provide the TL;DR version of legislation.

What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?

My section contributes bill summaries, policy areas, subjects, and related bills to Congress.gov. We also contribute links from Actions to the Congressional Record. So, my role in Congress.gov development focuses on ensuring the accessibility and availability of our contributions and ensuring that our contributions are meeting the needs of Congress.gov users.

What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?

Bill summaries. Legislation is written by lawyers and for lawyers, but it is crucial that everyone can understand legislation because of what a huge impact it can have on our lives. Legislative analysts determine what a bill is doing, and they describe the major points in plain English to benefit not just Congress and its staff, but every American who wants to participate in our democracy. In an age where finding information that can be relied upon is challenging, CRS bill summaries are authoritative, nonpartisan, and available to everyone through Congress.gov.

Beyond the summaries, all of Congress.gov empowers citizens to engage with the legislative process in an informed way. That is what makes the work so meaningful.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?

When a committee orders a bill to be reported, it is not actually reported. Ordering a bill to be reported and actually reporting the bill are two different steps in the legislative process. That seems to trip up a lot of people since (like much of the legislative process) it is not intuitive.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

My first job was as a pharmacy tech at Walgreens. That may be surprising since I am known as a bit of a germaphobe.

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