This article by Stuart L. Adams, Jr. appeared in the
Louisville Computer News
Some of us like to complain about what politicians are doing to us. We like to think that special interests are compromising our values and running our society into the ground. We like to think that this is all done in some far off place we cant reach and that its impossible for us to really know anything about until its too late. Maybe we just like to complain.
Well, if nothing else, the data explosion that is the Internet has made the availability of information about the workings of our legislators something we cannot avoid. We no longer have the ability to say we cant track legislation or find out what our legislators are really doing. Now we can easily do all that from the comfort of our own home. Largely because of the magnitude of some local Kentucky legislation, this month Im going to forego a normal column and just point out some of the basic Web sites where people in this area can learn about the process of passing legislation, track legislation before it passes, and contact their legislators.
If youre interested in the legislative process in Kentucky, the Kentucky Legislative
Research Commission has provided a wealth of material for you. You can start, for instance with a Web document which walks you through the process, including definitions of some terms and a wonderful overview. The LRC Web site includes a nice article on how a bill becomes a law http://220.127.116.11/sch_vist/howbill.htm.
Next, theyve provided you with a section focused on preparing the visitor for a visit and points of interest http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/Sch_vist/visit.htm
They even gone so far as to produce a virtual photographic tour of Kentucky's Capitol which they call the cyber-trip http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/Pubinfo/Tour/tour.htm
You say just looking at picture isnt enough, then go to an area where you can actually listen to hours of sound bytes of legislators discussing pending legislation. This link will give you currently available audio news releases (uncompressed WAV files and MP3 compressed files) http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/Pubinfo/Radio/Descript.htm
Then you can go to the Kentucky Legislature Daily Calendar where you can really drill down to committee meeting schedules, locations and topics up for discussion on a daily basis while the Legislature is in session http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/Sch_vist/emailcal.htm
If you need more, visit the Kentucky Legislature Home Page http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/
If you want to read legislation already on the books, visit http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/statrev/frontpg.htm
If you want someones spin or commentary on what it all means, you can visit
In Indiana, comparable information is available online. The home page of the Indiana General Assembly is found at www.state.in.us/legislative/index.html. If you want to read the current law, you can find the Indiana Code at: www.state.in.us/legislative/ic/code/
If you want to get a link to any of the rest of the state legislatures, visit the Virtual List of State Agencies, maintained by the University of Indiana. It provides links to state government agencies and offices that offer Internet based access. http://www.law.indiana.edu/law/v_lib/states.html.
To learn about some of the things legislators are talking about, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures http://www.ncsl.org/index.htm and The Counsel of State Govermnments at http://www.ncsl.org/index.htm.
At the U. S. Senate site http://www.senate.gov/ you can find all the ususal data, such as a search engine to look up bills by number or keyword. You can also see an image of the Allyn Cox oil on canvas portrait of Henry Clay, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky at the age of twenty_nine in 1806. The sites extensive images of the art of the Senate includes an area devoted to myths about Senate art and history
The U.S. House of Representatives site, http://www.house.gov/, includes educational resources with everything from a detailed description of the legislative process to the full text of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. http://www.house.gov/house/Educat.html
The House Web site posts a page which is provided to assist you in finding and contacting Members of the United States House of Representatives by clicking on a drop down menu of states and then entering your zip code. http://www.house.gov/writerep/
The Library of Congress site, http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.html?63,4 gives you access to almost anything you would want to know about the status of legislation, provides excerpts of the Congressional Record, searchable text of hearings and other historic gems, such as the impeachment documents of the Proceedings of the Senate Sitting for the Trial of Andrew Johnson.
These bookmarks are some of the more obvious and mainstream links in this area. There are literally hundreds which space prevents me from dumping in here. Needless to say, with very little effort, you can now track legislation in essentially every state of the union, and make those political efforts which you think appropriate to get your flavor of "good" legislation passed.