Library DrawingThe CONNector

JULY 2000Volume 2 Number 3

Legislative Bill Tracking Pilot Project

Hilary T. Frye, Bill Room Supervisor

Requests for legislative bill tracking have been a perennial event at the Bill Room at CSL. In the past, it was impossible to meet this need because of the demanding nature of the primary work. Customers were politely told that if they called in on a regular basis, verbal updates would be provided over the telephone.

Recent computer applications, both at CSL and at the Connecticut General Assembly, may make it possible to add a new level of service. The Bill Room is conducting a pilot project to explore the possibility of offering a bill tracking service to government agencies.

The focus of the pilot project is to increase awareness of and participation in the legislative process by making it more accessible and more understandable. The pilot project removes barriers by providing a venue for daily updates on proposed legislation which will affect operations at the agency. Participants receive updates from the experts in the Bill Room who then serve as resources for answering questions about particular bills and the legislative process.

The project is aimed at agencies which experience such obstacles as those created by physical distance from the General Assembly in Hartford, or by lack of computer access to the World Wide Web or from staffing constraints which make daily bill tracking an impossible task.

Among the twenty-two participants in the Pilot Project are the Commission on Fire Prevention and Control (Windsor Locks), the Litchfield Hills Council of Elected Officials (Goshen), the Milford Transit District (Milford), The South Central Regional Council of Governments (North Haven), and the Southwest Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) in Norwalk.

The first stage of the project began February 9, 2000 when the General Assembly convened for the 2000 Session. Participants identified subject areas for their Bill Tracking Profiles. As bills were introduced, staff at the Bill Room translated these subjects into bill numbers. These bills were then added to each agency's Bill Tracking Profile and marked for inclusion in a daily bill tracking report which was generated by the Connecticut General Assembly. The report was in the form of an Excel spreadsheet which was enhanced and edited by the staff at the Bill Room and either faxed or emailed to the participants. Copies of bills, substitute bills, amendments, and files were also included when appropriate. When the legislature adjourned many bills were left unpassed on the Calendar.

The first stage of the pilot project will continue during the upcoming Special Session, which has already been called and is tentatively scheduled for June, 2000. Bills which died on the calendar during the Regular Session could receive another chance for passage during a Special Session. It is a frequent occurrence for the General Assembly to reintroduce and pass some of these bills during a Special Session.

The primary work at the Bill Room is to create a permanent archive of actions on each bill as culled from the daily journals; to provide access to the verbatim transcripts of debate and hearings by reading each page of transcript and creating a bill number index; to provide telephone and walk-in reference service about the current session of the Connecticut General Assembly, and to organize and preserve the documents created during each legislative session. The Bill Room at the Connecticut State Library is a sub-unit of the Law & Legislative Reference Unit.

To contact the Bill Room, call Jean Kincaid-Ross or Richard Scholz at (860) 757-6550.

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