FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2007
For those of you with a little computer savvy and a big interest in the legislative process, information has just been made easier to access.
The Texas Legislature Online (TLO) web site (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ or http://www.legis.state.tx.us/ ) is considered one of the country's leading internet applications. It was first introduced in 1996 and has gradually been enhanced since then. Designed for the casual user, this system is easy to use and even contains a glossary for the "lingo" we use in the Legislature.
"TLO is an important Internet tool because it allows all Texans, regardless of how close or how far they live from the state Capitol, access to current information about the actions of their legislature," notes Linda Pittsford, manager of the Texas Legislative Council's Computer Support Center.
Although this virtual marvel is equipped with hundreds of capabilities, one of its most attractive features is the ability to tune into live broadcasts of the proceedings, as well as archived real video.
It allows you to track a bill from its infancy to its success or demise, and for the novice or someone needing a quick refresher course, it teaches you how to follow a bill. The system is so "high-tech" that you can set up bill alerts and receive emails on the status and movement of a bill through the process. But these alerts aren't confined to email on your desktop computer; they are also available for email alerts through your cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). So you can be shopping at the grocery store, and that alert will go off telling you that the bill you're concerned about just passed out of the committee to which it was assigned. The system is so well-designed, it walks you through the steps needed to create the alerts.
There is another option that permits you to subscribe to RSS feeds, sort of like on the CNN web page. The feeds let subscribers know that new information is available on-line and sends these feeds to your home computer. And TLO also walks you through this function and how to install the necessary software for it as well.
Another attractive component of TLO is that it allows a bill's vote information to be accessed via several options, and House votes are posted within an hour. Before the House journal in which votes are recorded for the day is available, an unofficial vote report displays if it is a record vote and if the vote is not a record vote, a message that the journal is not available appears. Senate votes are available once the Senate Journal is published. However, all vote information for both the House and Senate prior to the 79th legislative session can be accessed only in the journals, also online.
One of the most talked-about abilities TLO provides is that of letting you create your own bill list, as simple or as elaborate as you need.
Another brand new feature is one that allows you to view the language of a House amendment while it is being discussed in the House Chamber. Amendments are provisions that are added to bills.
Committee reports are updated throughout the day on TLO. It also provides quick links to calendars that let you know what bills are up for consideration. This site includes links to the Texas statutes and committee reports on bills once they are heard.
Many people appreciate how interactive this system can be. It provides an area that allows you to ask questions or submit comments. With another click of the mouse or touch of the keypad, you can check and see who represents you not only in the House and Senate, but also in the U.S. Congress.
Remember, all it takes to access this and much more information is to log onto http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/ or http://www.legis.state.tx.us/. Online registration to receive emails and alerts is quick and simple.
Whether you live in a town near Austin, or as far away from the Capital City as Brownsville or El Paso, you can stay abreast of government in action. I highly recommend the Texas Legislature Online.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.