The 60-day annual legislative session in Tallahassee can seem a confusing, rushed, and hectic mishmash of activity.
Bills with vague titles are introduced in committee, amended, sent to another committee, altered again and then — if they’re still alive — eventually make it to the floor of their respective chambers. Where, again, they can be rewritten in their entirety (via the ubiquitous strike-all amendment).
Using its website and the Lobbytools legislative information service, The Florida Bar is trying to demystify the legislative process for its members and also make it easier to find and track bills of interest.
Bar General Counsel Paul Hill said all filed legislation is reviewed and then sorted according to potential interest to various Bar committees and sections.
To access the information, click on Legislative Activity on the left side menu on the Bar’s home page at www.floridabar.org. On the resulting page, scroll down to “The Current Legislative Session” and then click the first link “Legislation of Interest to the Legal Profession.”
That goes to a page with a list of all sections and committees that may be affected by legislation. Click on any section or committee to see bills that might fall into its purview.
Hill said if there’s any hint a bill would be of interest to a section or committee, it’s included.
“It’s our effort to imagine who would care about a bill with the biggest stretch of the imagination,” Hill said.
Having a bill number is one thing. Getting information is another. Rather than have Bar members take the number and look up the bill on a legislative website, each listed bill is connected to a page run by Lobbytools. Clicking on the link takes the member to the page, which provides links to staff analysis of the bill, text of the legislation, proposed amendments, legislative history as it proceeds through committees, and a schedule of when and where it is next set to be heard.
If more in-depth bill tracking is desired, one can simply create legislative tracking accounts on both the House (Florida House of Representatives — Legislative Tracking Login Page), and Senate (Senate Tracker Login — The Florida Senate), websites. Once an account is established, these tracking systems can be personalized to follow specific issues of importance and can be set up to receive automatic email alerts when the status of those items changes.
A different part of the legislative activity section of the site provides a list of all current Bar-wide, section, and committee authorized legislative positions. It also explains the Bar policies that govern legislative activities.
2013-14 interim committee meetings begin the week of September 23, and the regular session will convene on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Hill and Joni Wussler, his legislative aide, said the web service is an expansion of what the Bar has always done to keep sections and committees informed about bills.
Wussler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (850) 561-5662.