In Quorum, bill status is visualized like this:
Legislative tracking means knowing exactly where a bill is in this process. In addition to a bill’s current status, legislative tracking often includes tracking additional details, like how many co-sponsors a bill has or dialogue surrounding the bill, like social media posts by members of Congress.
Why Tracking Legislation is Important
Knowing where pertinent legislation is in the pipeline is paramount for organizations to be proactive and influence decisions on Capitol Hill.
For example, suppose your organization wants to support or shut down a bill, and it’s sent to a committee. In that case, you’ll want to activate your team (employees, advocates, lobbyists, etc.) to interact with committee members and explain how the bill would impact your organization.
Timing is critical when responding to legislation. If you find out about a bill after it’s already been through committee or through one chamber, it is going to be much more difficult to have an influence on the end result.
Similarly, if a bill affects how your business will operate, you’ll want to know when it moves through the House and Senate so you can prepare your team for upcoming changes and protect yourself from legal liabilities.
Steps to Tracking Legislation
Tracking legislation can be an arduous manual process or mostly automated by technology. But no matter the path you choose, there are a few steps to set up your legislative tracking system:
- Decide What Issues to Track
- Set Up a System to Identify New Bills
- Organize Legislation You’ve Identified
- Categorize Legislation
- Strategize Your Approach to Engagement
- Keep Your System Updated
- Move to Regulatory Tracking
1. Decide What Issues to Track
To start, decide which issues are relevant to your organization. Think about your organization’s mission and identify relevant keywords to include in your search for legislation. Be specific — with thousands of bills, you’ll want to narrow your terms to ones you anticipate actively engaging on.
For example, if your organization’s primary concern is the protection of public lands, you’ll probably want to track keywords like: public land, national park, state park, national forest, federal land policy, mineral leasing act, etc..
Keep this list organized because you’ll need it for step two.
2. Set Up a System to Identify New Bills
Now that you have narrowed your issue portfolio, it’s time to start your search for legislation to track.
There are a few different ways to identify new bills as they are introduced. One affordable, but time-consuming way, is to set a reminder to visit the state or federal websites daily. For example, you could visit the Illinois General Assembly website every morning and use the bill search feature to look up all of your keywords. Once a bill is introduced, you’ll also need to search for bill numbers regularly to see where they are in the legislative process. Some states, like Texas, offer the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds to receive updates.
If your organization only focuses on a few issues in one area, then a manual search might be fine. But if you cover multiple issues or work in multiple regions, you’ll quickly outgrow this process.
Some organizations use consultants or a field team to identify legislation based on conversations on Capitol Hill or in state legislatures. This can be a great option if your internal team doesn’t have connections on Capitol Hill or political expertise. Unfortunately, third parties can be expensive and they usually have a list of clients, meaning you might not get the attention you require. Additionally, lobbyists or consultants usually only work in one region, so if you need to track state legislation across the United States, you’ll need to hire an even larger team.
If you want to handle legislative tracking without relying on outside resources, or you want to empower those outside resources, software like Quorum streamlines and automates bill tracking. Quorum allows individuals and organizations to quickly manage issues, set up real-time alerts, identify stakeholders, contact officials, and more. An automated system like Quorum helps ensure nothing falls through the cracks and your entire team stays informed on relevant issues.
3. Organize Legislation You’ve Identified