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Using "My Legislation" to keep up to date: the Illinois General Assembly web site's free "My Legislation" feature enables you to stay abreast of new public acts.

Does your job require you to keep track of legislation pending before the Illinois General Assembly? Since the introduction of the Illinois General Assembly Web site's "My Legislation" tool, doing so has never been easier.

My Legislation (reachable via a link across the top blue bar at http://www.ilga.gov) allows a user to create a username and password, then store different queries and legislation in the user's account for easy tracking. The My Legislation user guide, at http://www.ilga.gov/mylegislation/mylegislation.pdf, provides detailed instruction on all of the different tools and permutations thereof possible with My Legislation.

Because that guide runs 15 pages (a lot of it is taken up by screenshots), allow me to briefly describe some of the highlights. At the outset, I should note that while most users will probably take advantage of My Legislation for its ability to track current legislation, it can help users conducting legislative history research, because it can be used for the two most recent General Assemblies (the 93rd and 94th) in addition to the current one.

"Build Query"

"Build Query" is perhaps the main tool in My Legislation. Build Query allows the users to construct different queries to create reports.

Legislation can be limited by session; by sponsoring legislator (and whether that sponsor is a chief sponsor, a co-chief sponsor, or a co-sponsor); by committee assignment (and whether or not it has a scheduled hearing); by type of legislation (e.g., house bill, senate resolution, etc.); by the type of action on the legislation (e.g., "Third Reading-Passed"); by date or date range for the legislative action; and by the ability to limit the legislative action to the current last action on the legislation.

One thing Build Query does not allow the user to do is to search by keywords in the legislative text. Someone wishing to do this would have to search the legislation by keyword, identify the relevant bill numbers, and then use the "Add Bills" function of My Legislation to add the relevant bills to the user's account.

Another benefit of the Build ILCS Query is the ability to bring the online Illinois Compiled Statutes up-to-date. "Build ILCS Query" is my personal favorite among the tools offered in My Legislation. It allows the user to track all pending legislation affecting a particular chapter, act, and/ or section of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Build ILCS Query includes an option for "New Acts," that is, legislation that would be entirely new to the ILCS and thus does not yet have a chapter, act, or section associated with it.

The obvious benefit of the Build ILCS Query tool is that it allows a user focused on a particular part of the ILCS to track any legislation that might effect a change to the relevant provisions. Thus, the user interested in legislation potentially affecting the Film Production Services Tax Credit Act can use the drop-down menus to select Chapter 35 (Revenue) and Act 15 (the Film Production Services Tax Credit Act). Clicking the "Preview" button will bring up a new window showing a list of all legislation affecting that act.

The legislation is arranged by ILCS section and then within each section by bill number, with house bills first. Sponsors, short title, date of last action, and last action are also included.

The Build ILCS Query can also be limited by where the bill is in the legislative process (e.g., "Committee Stage"), or by the date or date range in which the bill was filed ("introduced"). Note that running the report (clicking "Preview") will open a new window, so pop-up blockers will either have to be turned off or set to allow pop-ups at the ILGA site.

Another benefit of the Build ILCS Query is the ability to bring the online Illinois Compiled Statutes up-to-date. By way of example, as of September 13, 2007, the online edition of the ILCS at the General Assembly's website was up-to-date through Public Act 95-31. However, at that point, the General Assembly had passed Public Act 95-617, meaning that there were then currently 586 new public acts that had not yet been incorporated into the online ILCS. With Build ILCS Query, you can plug in the relevant ILCS provision and find any legislation that has become a public act (it will show a last action as "Public Act" in the report), thus bringing the ILCS research up to date with the most recent public act.

"Add"/"Edit Bills"

The Add Bills and Edit Bills functions allow you to create folders with specifically identified legislation. Thus, if you wanted to track one particular house bill and two senate bills, you could create a folder ("My Bills' Title") and add those bills to that folder.

By going to "View," you can see the current report for your Build Queries, Build ILCS Queries, or My Bills' Titles. Build Query can thus be used to identify all of the legislation on a particular topic. If a number of bills seem to be perpetually stuck in, say, the Rules Committee, you can select the most prominent bills identified in the Build Query and use Add Bills to track just the bills in which you're interested.

Complaints

I only have two complaints about My Legislation. First, it seems to time out rather quickly. Several times as I wrote this column, I had to log in again after what I was sure was only a two-or three-minute delay.

Second, if you accidentally give one query the same name as a previous one, it does not prompt you to enter a different name. Rather, you end up with two queries with the same name (but likely different parameters).

Neither problem is a big deal. Really, they're just minor annoyances.

Conclusion

The Illinois General Assembly continues to have one of the better state legislative Web sites. My Legislation is a welcome, and most helpful, addition.

Tom Gaylord is a law librarian at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
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Author:Gaylord, Tom
Publication:Illinois Bar Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:997
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