Tracking Legislative Activity

Finding out what’s going on in Montana state legislative sessions has never been easier. Since 1999  both current and past legislative activity can be tracked on the internet. This blog is going to provide some tips on the easiest way to learn how to track Montana legislative activity.

The best place to start is at the legislative webpage 

Montana Legislature_Page_1

This first page is very intuitive and you can explore it without  extra instruction. I want to focus on the heart of legislative activity – the bills. Montana Legislative Services has put together a very useful website called LAWS (Legal Automated Workflow System) that tracks all kinds of bill information and is updated nearly every day  during legislative sessions. LAWS is also retrospective, retaining bill information back to 1999.

From the legislative homepage you can get to LAWS by selecting BILLS on the left side of the screen and then selecting the most current LAWS offering – in this case 2015 LAWS.

LAWS Look Up Bill Information Page_Page_1

For those of you who read the Legislative Intent blog from January 2015, this page should look familiar. We used it to track past session bill information when learning about legislative intent. Today I will put this page to a different use. When you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will find the following link:

LAWS Instructional Video Library (How-to video demos!)

This link takes you to a series of videos instructing the user how to navigate the LAWS system. The videos are all fairly short, well-illustrated , clear, concise, informative, and show you the LAWS system much more efficiently than I could here with textual descriptions and screen shots.   The longest video of the first two batches is a mere 5 minutes and 11 seconds and many of them are much shorter than that. You can pick and choose which you need to see or just watch them all if you have about 40 minutes.

LAWS Instructional Videos_Page_1

The videos in the first two sections cover basics and search options. You can watch the videos from the legislative website or you can find them on You Tube by going to You Tube and searching for “Montana Legislature LAWS – Basics”, and “Montana legislature LAWS – Search Options”. If the legislative website hangs up, I recommend going directly to You Tube and watching the videos from there. Also, if you elect to watch the videos from the legislative website but find the screen too small, you can go to full screen mode by clicking on the full screen icon in the lower right portion of the embedded You Tube screen.

There is a second set of videos that show demonstrates how to set up a personal account that allows you to focus on particular bills, drafts and hearings, complete with notifications of schedule changes. Depending on how closely you want to monitor legislative activity, you may want to learn how to set up and customize your own account.

The people at Montana Legislative Services, and in particular Jim Gordon, have done a great job presenting this information in video format.

Spring Break is here. Look for the next blog entry on April 10, 2015


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