State Bill Tracking: Preparing for Success in 2019

October 16, 2018

It’s no surprise that states introduce more bills than Congress, but did you know they introduce 23 times more?

With the immense volume of legislation introduced in state legislatures, your state government affairs team may be spread thin, tracking new developments in legislation while crisscrossing the country engaging stakeholders on the issues your organization cares about.

There are steps your organization can take to ease this burden by setting up an effective state bill tracking system that sets clear standards for your team’s information sharing and provides an efficient and streamlined way to follow bills as they move through the legislative process. To ensure your organization is prepared for 2019 legislative sessions, follow these four steps:

1. Set Up Relevant Search Terms

Regardless of the database you’re using to track legislation, quality search terms are core to ensuring that you catch all relevant legislation your organization cares about. On the one hand, you want to ensure you aren’t missing bills that could affect your organization’s bottom line by ignoring key search terms. On the other hand, you also don’t want your team to have to waste time sifting through bill text that is unrelated to your work because of search terms that were too vague.

But how do you know if your search term is too vague before the session begins? With a tool like Quorum, you can “analyze” a search term before adding to your 2019 bill tracking project, showing how many bills fit that term in the previous year. Use this number to gauge the quality of your search term—does the term bring up 500, 1000, or more bills introduced in 2018? This is likely too many for your team to track, and you’ll want to narrow your term. In this case, a feature like Quorum’s boolean operators allow you to narrow your search terms to ensure you are pulling in only relevant legislation.

2. Set Team Procedures for Categorizing Newly Introduced Legislation

Some organizations segment their legislative work by region or issue category. If a legislature introduces a new bill in a particular team member’s region or issue area, what steps do you expect them to take? For example, some organizations require that each team member categorize legislation by stance, priority, and category within 24 hours of being alerted to a bill. Some also require team members to draft a description of the legislation and how it affects the organization so that others can immediately understand the significance of the bill.

The key to this step is consistency—regardless of what information you deem critical to know when a legislator introduces a bill, you want everyone on your team reviewing legislation using the same protocol so you can determine where to best strategically allocate your teams resources across regions and issue areas.

3. Build a Bill Tracking Spreadsheet

Your bill tracking spreadsheet will be a central location to see every bill your organization is working on, with the ability to filter or sort by issue, priority, and stance. Include columns such as status and number of cosponsors to see how legislation is moving in the chamber.

If you’re doing this in Excel or Google Sheets, set up a time every week to update the data.

With a tool like Quorum, your spreadsheets will auto-update if there are adjustments to the status of any columns you add, such as new co-sponsors signing on, bills moving to another stage in the process, team members assigning new priorities to bills.

Need to share the status of bills your organization cares about with external stakeholders or organizations? Quorum also provides the option to share your spreadsheet publicly, either by sharing a link or embedding on your organization’s website.

4. Pair Your Bill Tracking with Dialogue Tracking

If you wait until a piece of legislation is introduced to meet with legislators on your organization's views, it may be too late to make your voice a part of the conversation. Stay ahead of the game by following what legislators are saying on social media for potential early warnings of legislative progress on an issue.

Dialogue tracking can also help identify new legislative champions for your organization. If you are looking for more members to sign on to a bill your organization supports, look to the individuals who are most vocal on social media about your issue.

Without taking the time to organize your bill tracking before state sessions start, it's easy for the volume of legislation to become overwhelming very quickly in the new year. By taking a few steps in advance of legislatures convening, you can set your team up for success. See how Quorum can help prepare for 2019 state legislative sessions.

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