The Best App To Keep Tabs On Your State Legislators

Mar 18, 2013

It would be nice to know more about state politics.  But who can keep track of all those committees and subcommittees, you say.  And all the House and Senate bills with long names and random numbers – and who is my legislator anyway?

You could go to the official state websites to find your legislators and proposed laws

But to stay informed, your work isn’t done.  You now need to keep track of what your legislators are doing and whether your bill gets past a committee vote.  And unless your bill or legislator is in the news, that means you need to constantly search the state websites to find out if there’s been any activity.  

What a pain.

Well, the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation have a solution for you with the Open States website and smartphone app.  

Once you find your legislator or particular bill, you can easily keep track of them by signing up for a free account.  You’ll receive alerts about votes by your legislator or activity on a bill (like whether it’s been scheduled for a hearing or a new version has been introduced).

There are some minor shortcomings to the site compared to the official website for researching bills.  For instance, Open States doesn’t include the short summary of a bill or list related bills as the official site does. 

But all of that is overshadowed by the amazing utility of the tracking tool and Open States’ aggregation of another important data set in following state politics, campaign contributions. 

By clicking on detailed campaign finance information, you will be taken to the Influence Explorer site, which will give you data from official state campaign records. 

The website shows you not only the top industries donating to your legislator’s campaign, it also lists the top contributors.  If you click again for more details, you can find a listing of individual contributions made to a legislator.

So go ahead - wonk out!  (I believe we just coined that phrase).