Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trying to keep track of the action in Olympia? Here's a quick guide!

So what's really happening in the House and Senate?

While it's easy to look up a single piece of legislation, it's hard to keep track of the big picture.

  • Which bills are alive?
  • Which ones are probably dead?
  • What did the House pass that the Senate is considering – and vice versa?

We're past the House of Origin cutoff, which is a fancy way of saying to the House and Senate, "If your bill didn't pass from one chamber already, it's dead."

There are exceptions to that rule. Anything related to budgets is exempt from cutoff rules, and it gets complicated really quick. But in general, if a bill started in the House and doesn't involve money, it should have passed by now. Same with Senate bills.

Bills that spend money, raise money or involve the budget are called NTIB ("Necessary To Implement the Budget") are exempted.

Here are some quick shortcuts to finding out what you want to know.

Keeping track of the House of Representatives

To find out what bills passed the House, click here.

To see what lawmakers are debating on the House floor, click here for the Floor Activity Report.

To look at all bills introduced in the House, click here.

Keeping track of the Senate

To find out what bills have already passed the Senate, click here.

To see what senators are debating on any given day, click here for the Senate version of the Floor Activity Report (which, by the way, will want you to click on a calendar thing on the left before it shows you any bills).

For all bill introduced in the Senate, dead or alive, click here.

Going simple or getting all fancy

To simply check on bills, go to the main bill information site. You can do it by bill number, prime sponsor (the lawmaker who introduced the bill) or by topic.

Now, if you want to get all advanced, and show off your techno-political skills, there are ways to automatically track whichever bills you care about, whether they're in the House or the Senate. Create a free account on the bill tracker and it will let you do all kinds of crazy complicated and impressive things.

And to see video, or hear audio, of any legislative meeting or floor debate, go to www.tvw.org

Read this story in Spanish.