Online tools for citizen activism
On January 14, 2017, a group from the Green Party of Utah attended the “Pre-Legislative Bootcamp” hosted by Libertas Utah to gain insight into how to more effectively communicate with Utah's legislators and navigate the processes of law-making and advocacy. Find our notes from the event below.
Note: the Legislative Session starts on January 23rd and ends on March 9th.
State website is le.utah.gov. “2017 General Session” will be your go-to for tracking bills in this session.
Calendars will have session agendas. Note the color code: gray is for past sessions, green is current, blue is for future sessions. You can stream these in audio (for committee meetings) or video (for floor meetings).
Standing Committees meet during the session, Interim Committees meet off season about every other month to gather testimonies, research, and hold workshops.
You can download the PDF of the bill and search for keywords to make more sense of the bill.
“Utah Law Formatting” plugin on Google Chrome will colorize the bills to show where amendments have been made.
“Note Anywhere” plugin on Google Chrome allows you to leave sticky notes on the website which remains there when you visit the same site again.
Wait until the bill is assigned to see which committee has what bill. This will show the members to help guide you to who you need to communicate with. Bottom of the page has the bill agendas to show where and when the meetings are.
The search bar on the website is not great. Use google (site: le.utah.gov + your search term) for best results.
Note: toward the end of the session legislators may suspend the rules to make the process quicker.
Use the bill trackers to make sure you are reading the most updated version of the bill and keeping notes on where it is in the process.
Use Twitter and track the #utpol hashtag for the latest and greatest in Utah politics. Each representative manages their own accounts, so you can follow them and @ them and they will get notifications on your comment.
Takeaways: It would be helpful if there was an app for your smart phone that makes navigating the website easier. Folks who are disabled or legally blind cannot easily navigate the various tabs on a mobile device. Overall the website is not super intuitive, but the bill trackers can be helpful.