Improving Legislative Engagement: A Guest Article by the Louisiana District Attorneys Association

September 3, 2013 by Crescerance

This week we have a guest article from the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. LDAA has been using Capitol Impact’s legislative tracking system to great success over the past few years, enabling them to share legislative information with their association members and better understand how each bill would affect the Louisiana district attorneys. LDAA has been able to improve their member’s legislative engagement while eliminating some of the tedium of getting the information out to members. Read their article below:

LDAA Has Unique Needs When it Comes to Legislation

The Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA) has spent a great deal of time developing tools to help them manage the annual legislative process in their state. We are talking about lawyers and legislators where the legislators come up with new rules of law and the lawyers have to work within those rules. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. So LDAA decided a long time ago that they need to take a more proactive approach. The LDAA staff takes the responsibility for finding legislation and feeding it to their members. What they ask of the membership is to review the proposed laws and determine how they will impact prosecutors in Louisiana. Using that feedback, the LDAA team is more informed and better able to work effectively with legislators.

Historically, communication between LDAA members and staff involved several different sets of tools. LDAA used a legislative tracking system that was available exclusively to members of the office staff. From that service they would create reports that would then be placed on their chat page so that members could review a bill. The chat page was monitored by staff to evaluate member comments.

Senior staff used Outlook to manage multiple email groups and manually pasted the chat page links for each bill into emails to keep it members informed. While the process was successful in engaging members in the legislative process, it was time consuming and tedious. Then LDAA discovered the Capitol Impact Legislative Tracking solution called Louisiana Track. Capitol Impact’s Louisiana track system is based on the concept of engaging members in the legislative process. Louisiana Track is one of the 50 state based systems offered by Capitol Impact. It is a website that LDAA can publish for members to use when they login to the member side of LDAA’s environment. With login security, only legitimate members can view the legislative system.

As bills are introduced, the LDAA staff chooses bills to track and can assign them to groups so that members can view bills by categories, topics of interest, or priority levels called tracking levels. Once a bill is selected for tracking, the Louisiana Track system allows the user to change the title of a bill so it makes more sense to the audience of members, assign the bill to categories, give it a level of importance (tracking level) rating, and enter comments from staff to the members.

When the bill is published for the members to view, the members have the ability to enter comments on the bill. This helps LDAA staff organize all types of comments associated with the bill. Members can add as many comments as they want, and the LDAA team can update their explanation as each bill moves through the legislative process.

On a weekly basis, the LDAA team uses the Legislative Report tool that enables staff to create a summary of activity at the state capitol, followed by a list of tracked bills. Louisiana Track permits the creation of professional, well-crafted documents such as the LDAA’s Legislative Report, in Word, PDF or email format. Each weekly report can be archived as well as distributed in multiple formats to the members.

LDAA also calls on internal committees and members with specialized knowledge regarding selected bills and topics. Historically, they would create an email using different groups of people and different groups of bills, requesting feedback from the people in each group. The time it takes to put together each email can be significant using a product like Outlook because you need to make sure people are in the correct groups, and because of copying links to the legislative detail which may be a group of 10 or 15 bills. Louisiana Track has an application requested by LDAA that allows them to use their membership database to select any grouping of names followed by the legislative tracking details to select any group of bills. The multiple person/multiple bill function lets the Executive Director choose people and bills quickly, add the text to his email and send each person a private copy of the email asking for commentary on the bills. Each bill is sent with a hyperlink back to the Louisiana Track system so that they can enter their comments right into the bill.

LDAA values communication, membership engagement and feedback when it comes to legislation. Most legislative tracking tools are designed for lobbyists, which limits the use of the system. Louisiana Track, and all the State legislative tracking systems from Capitol Impact, are designed to enhance and promote interactive communication.  This is accomplished using tools such as weekly reports that tracking bills on smart phones and direct comments and vital information to specific people and/or groups as needed.

To learn more about how Capitol Impact’s Legislative Tracking System can help your organization, take our online tour.