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What is Legislative Tracking?

First off, what is legislative tracking? Legislative tracking is the process of keeping tabs on bills and amendments as they move toward becoming laws. Keep in mind, the process for federal and state legislation varies (and even varies between states), but generally, bills go through these stages before becoming law: [post_title] => Bill & Legislative Tracking 101 [Step-by-Step Guide] [post_excerpt] => Tracking legislation effectively includes steps like setting up a system to track bills, categorizing legislation, and keeping the system updated. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-track-legislation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=4934 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 4934 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'how-to-track-legislation' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4934 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2023-01-26 11:00:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-01-26 11:00:52 [post_content] => With over 7,500 federal and 78,000 state bills introduced in 2022, tracking legislation can be a hefty challenge for any organization. We’ve talked to nonprofits, associations, and corporations that track thousands of bills annually across 50 states and Washington. And while tracking legislation may seem like a monumental task, there are ways organizations of any size can track legislation relatively easily.

What is Legislative Tracking?

First off, what is legislative tracking? Legislative tracking is the process of keeping tabs on bills and amendments as they move toward becoming laws. Keep in mind, the process for federal and state legislation varies (and even varies between states), but generally, bills go through these stages before becoming law: [post_title] => Bill & Legislative Tracking 101 [Step-by-Step Guide] [post_excerpt] => Tracking legislation effectively includes steps like setting up a system to track bills, categorizing legislation, and keeping the system updated. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-track-legislation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=4934 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4934 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2023-01-26 11:00:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-01-26 11:00:52 [post_content] => With over 7,500 federal and 78,000 state bills introduced in 2022, tracking legislation can be a hefty challenge for any organization. We’ve talked to nonprofits, associations, and corporations that track thousands of bills annually across 50 states and Washington. And while tracking legislation may seem like a monumental task, there are ways organizations of any size can track legislation relatively easily.

What is Legislative Tracking?

First off, what is legislative tracking? Legislative tracking is the process of keeping tabs on bills and amendments as they move toward becoming laws. Keep in mind, the process for federal and state legislation varies (and even varies between states), but generally, bills go through these stages before becoming law: [post_title] => Bill & Legislative Tracking 101 [Step-by-Step Guide] [post_excerpt] => Tracking legislation effectively includes steps like setting up a system to track bills, categorizing legislation, and keeping the system updated. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-track-legislation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-01-26 17:04:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=4934 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 1dd702a6cc87a590f5b77b124853eccd [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Bill & Legislative Tracking 101 [Step-by-Step Guide]

Bill & Legislative Tracking 101 [Step-by-Step Guide]

With over 7,500 federal and 78,000 state bills introduced in 2022, tracking legislation can be a hefty challenge for any organization.

We’ve talked to nonprofits, associations, and corporations that track thousands of bills annually across 50 states and Washington. And while tracking legislation may seem like a monumental task, there are ways organizations of any size can track legislation relatively easily.

What is Legislative Tracking?

First off, what is legislative tracking? Legislative tracking is the process of keeping tabs on bills and amendments as they move toward becoming laws.

Keep in mind, the process for federal and state legislation varies (and even varies between states), but generally, bills go through these stages before becoming law:

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:

  1. Decide What Issues to Track
  2. Set Up a System to Identify New Bills
  3. Organize Legislation You’ve Identified
  4. Categorize Legislation
  5. Strategize Your Approach to Engagement
  6. Keep Your System Updated
  7. 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

From there, set up a system to organize the legislation you’ve identified. You’ll want a system that serves as a hub where your team can view all the bills you care about and keep up-to-date on what your organization is working on.

We’ve seen organizations do this manually in spreadsheets, which might be sufficient if you have a small team and a small set of legislation. But if you’re working across teams, states, and legislatures, a spreadsheet isn’t going to cut it.

In Quorum, there are a few ways you can organize legislation. You can set up sortable, auto-updating sheets or even dashboards that can be shared externally. Having everything all in one place gives teams an organized and comprehensive view of legislative issues, making it easier to create a public affairs gameplan.

4. Categorize Legislation

When you identify a new bill that falls into your issue profile, tag bills with specific criteria so you can keep organized. Some common tags include:

  • Support, Oppose, Neutral: What is your organization’s stance on this issue?
  • High, Medium, Low Priority: How high of a priority is this bill? Are you going to act right away or just watch?
  • Issue Area: What part of your issue portfolio does this bill fall under?
  • Responsible Team Member: Who “owns” this issue for your organization?

To take it a step further, consider adding a description section to a bill’s profile. The Alzheimer’s Association, for example,  requires team members to fill in a description in the bill profiles of what the bill means for the Alzheimer’s community. This makes it easier to spot trends for the Alzheimer Association’s national lobbying strategy.

5. Strategize Your Approach to Engagement

Once you’ve categorized legislation, you can move from identifying legislation to taking action.

With the Sierra Club managing 50 state chapters, using a shared system allows their team to see what state lobbyists are tracking and connect those facing similar legislation to each other to share best practices. This can include sharing talking points that worked, the volume of advocates who participated in grassroots campaigns, or data relevant to the issue.

6. Keep Your System Updated

Legislation can move fast, and as things change, your organization’s perspective on it may change. Make sure you not only have a system to track new legislation, but changes to legislation you’ve already identified.

If you’re using a manual spreadsheet, be sure to input changes as soon as things move to maintain the most up-to-date legislative information.

7. Move to Regulatory Tracking

After a bill has been enacted through the legislative process, you should also follow the regulatory process. This is important because it impacts how the legislation will be implemented by the government.

How to Level Up Your Legislative Tracking

There are two key ways to level up your legislative tracking efforts, which include tracking dialogue alongside bills and reporting your success metrics.

Track Dialogue Alongside Bills

With over one million social media posts made by Members of Congress every year, if you’re not tracking official dialogue, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. Following what legislators say on social media allows for early signs of legislative action.

When Covid-19-related indoor dining restrictions were implemented, Doordash knew their delivery platform could mean the difference in local businesses staying open through the lockdowns. With every state and county implementing various restrictions, Doordash used Quorum’s dialogue tracking to rapidly respond to local and state leadership announcements. By monitoring state and local official Twitter accounts, Doordash was able to quickly pivot their outgoing messaging to stay current and ensure they were complying with state, local, and federal policies.

With dialogue tracking, you can more effectively strategize on which legislators to focus on. In the words of Senator Brian Schatz, “you can always assume that the tweeting about legislation is accompanied by legislating.”

Report Your Success Metrics

Proving return on investment is crucial in growing your team and showing the strategies you’re employing are effective. Using a tool like Quorum to log meeting notes and track the actionable steps you’ve taken gives your leadership a clear idea of both the scale of legislation you are tracking and the volume of work that you put into affecting legislation.

By getting organized and staying updated with a legislative tracking system, you can focus on your strategic success in achieving your policy goals.

Learn More: Five Key Legislative Strategies

Legislative Tracking Examples

In 2018, Oklahoma introduced legislation to ban protests around “critical infrastructures” such as pipelines.

“Had we not had Quorum, we wouldn’t have known that that bill had passed in Oklahoma and that I should reach out to our lobbyist,” Hensley said.

Because of the early warning from Oklahoma, the Sierra Club was able to be proactive in other states, including convincing the governor of Wyoming to veto similar legislation that had passed both chambers.

The Alzheimer’s Association also needed to track bills in all 50 states.

Considering the fact that state legislatures have cumulatively introduced over 500 bills per year mentioning Alzheimer’s Disease since 2015, you can imagine how difficult this would be to track manually.

The Alzheimer’s Association engaged with Quorum and set up a new 50-state legislation tracking process that is now used team-wide.

Your legislative tracking is ready, now let's learn a few government relations strategies used by the top teams in the industry.