How do I Find out About New Legislation?

Lainie Petersen

You can track new bills through several online services as well as through making contact with your local legislators. While there are several proprietary services that can track legislation for a fee, there are several free ways to track new legislation, including the use of search engine alert systems and legislative notification services offered on a legislature's website. Many advocacy groups also publicly track legislation that pertains to the group's area of interest. You can use any of these services to identify and follow new legislation as it either makes its way through the process of becoming law, undergoes significant changes, or simply fails to progress.

Search engines, databases, and legislation notification services can be used to learn about new legislation.
Search engines, databases, and legislation notification services can be used to learn about new legislation.

Historically, individuals and businesses have been able to contact government legislative representatives for information on recent bills and active legislation. Providing constituents with this information was a standard service for many of these politicians. While it is still possible to get this kind of information from a legislator, the Internet provides simpler ways of receiving up-to-date legislative information. In the United States, for example, federal legislative bodies as well as many state legislatures now enter the details of new legislation into a website database. You can search these databases using keywords of interest, the bill number, or even the name of the legislator who introduced the bill.

The features of legislation databases on government websites can vary considerably. In some cases, these databases require you to regularly perform a one-time search for the new legislation that interests you. Some databases may automate the process for you by allowing you to subscribe via email to any bill updates.

There are several proprietary database services that provide automated searches for new legislation. While there is a charge for these services, you may find that their databases are much more customizable and allow you to take a hands-off approach to legislative research. You might be able to request that these services continually search for keywords and phrases in new legislation. This information can be sent to you on a regular basis so that you are always aware of new legislation.

If there is a particular cause or area of law that concerns you yet you don't want to spend the money on a proprietary database service, visit the websites of advocacy groups on the web. These organizations often monitor legislation and regularly update their websites with information. They may even send out updates to those on their mailing list. Advocacy organization websites are also an excellent source of bill names and numbers that you can plug into state legislative websites in order obtain the status of legislation that interests you.

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