Citizens need to stay informed about what their elected representatives are doing. Two ways to do this are (1) track legislation, and, (2) see who is supporting your representatives.
Several websites provide information on proposed legislation at both state and federal level. While each site is somewhat different, they all generally provide:
- Details of proposed legislation, including the text of bills.
- Names of the legislators who introduced and co-sponsored legislation.
- The progress of the legislation as it is voted on — or not.
Tracking Federal Legislation
Several sites track federal legislation; some track both federal and state legislation. Each site operates differently, although each site has a search capability. Try these sites and pick your favorite.
The Gallagher Library at the Univ of Washington his a list of links that allow tracking of federal and state legislation.
Congressional Research Service — this is the CRS guide for Congressional staffs to assist them in researching legislation. This is a PDF document that can be read online or downloaded.
Tracking Virginia Legislation
Two websites — Richmond Sunlight and Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System — track legislation in the Virginia General Assembly. NOTE: These two sites are active starting a few weeks before each General Assembly session. After the General Assembly adjourns, both sites retain information for previous sessions.
Richmond Sunlight provides several ways to track legislation; there’s also a function enabling readers to comment on bills.
Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System provides information on legislation in the General Assembly as well as links to Virginia Code, Constitution, and other references. LIS has archives that go back to 1994.
Follow The Money
Today, a veritable tsunami of money is washing through our political system at state and federal levels. Candidates and officials are required to file periodic financial reports in which they identify donors and the amount donated by each donor. These reports are public information. At least two websites collect these reports and translate them into easy-to-read lists thereby allowing citizens to see where their representatives are getting their money.
Financial Data on Federal Representatives
OpenSecrets.org, sponsored by the Center For Responsive Politics, is the premier site for tracking candidate and representative finances, lobbyists and other influences on our representatives. OpenSecrets also publishes editorial comment on current events.
Financial Data on Virginia Politics
The Virginia Public Access Project — VPAP — covers the finances of Virginia politicians, both candidates and elected officials. The VPAP site can be searched to find your representative or other official. VPAP lists the names of individuals who have donated to candidates and officials as well as the amount donated.