4 Ways State's Free Legislation Tools Fall Short

December 16, 2011 by Crescerance

Every state legislative session results in the publishing of thousands of bills which are made available online through each state’s legislative tracking environment. Each day, your state site publishes bills that are introduced, updated, or voted on. The state does a great job of making legislation available to the general public, and if you are monitoring a handful of bills this system is perfect. However, when an organization must track large sets of bills, across a variety of topics, the state system can begin to fall short. Here are 4 things that legislative tracking software can do that state websites typically do not offer.

Create a Portfolio

State legislative websites are designed to publish bill content, not manage it. Lobbyists for an organization tracking multiple bills need to be able to organize the bills into categories, as well as search through the categories of bills. For example, a professional lobbyist with multiple clients would need to be able to track different bills each one of his clients. An association may need to track hundreds of bills and organize them by topic for easier access by their members. A state agency or local government would need to organize bills for use by different departments. Commercial legislative tracking software enables lobbyists to organize bills into folders that reflect how their organization needs to address new legislation.

Monitor Your Portfolio

For lobbyists tracking multiple bills that are being revised and changed regularly, state legislative systems are not ideal because they typically make you search for and check each bill individually. For example, an association that is tracking 20 bills would need to check each bill one at a time for updates. A commercial legislative tracking system can collect and display all the bills that were changed or introduced from the previous day, making it easy for the lobbyists to find updated bills without having to search through their entire portfolio every morning. Commercial software tends to help the lobbyist focus on the universe of legislation that they are interested in knowing about by enabling the user to slice through lists from different entry points.

Interact with People

Lobbyists operate in an environment where they need to convey information to others and receive feedback. Their issue is legislation and they need to inform key management about bills as well as receive input on the impact of a bill from other experts in their organization. A lobbyist for a government agency needs in out from specific departments for feedback. Professional lobbyists look to their clients for input and association look to key members. State legislative tracking tools do not address the communication issue well. A professional tracking system on the other hand can create an environment that enables lobbyists to communicate with their audience online. You can have two way feed back where by the system enables the lobbyists to publish notes on each bill as to what the key issues are, and then the readers of the bill can click a button and record their comments on the legislation, which can be seen by only the lobbyists or shared with an audience. Commercial systems try to attend to the legislative process which always involves dialogue on legislation..

New Technology Integration

Finally, state legislative tracking tools do not take advantage of new technology. A commercial system can take advantage of new technology, like using the system from a smartphone or social media integration. Lobbyists today are more in tune with a system that allows them to keep up with technology, not a system that forces them to use only what is available.

While your state legislative tracking system is a very solid source for for tracking a few bills, if you are a lobbyist you may need more. If you would like to learn more about how professional legislative tracking tools can help make you a better lobbyist, request a free one-on-one demo from Capitol Impact.