Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tank Up on Your Top Topic

Once you have a top topic, you need to get savvy about it. A good ol' Google search will give you some basic background information, and it might highlight new controversies or trends.  The plan is not to exhaust yourself!  Just learn a little more than you did when you started.

Next I want you to explore what the State legislature is planning to do about the issue (or for it, or to it!). Is there a good idea out there you'd like to support?  Is there a bad one you'd like to holler about? 

The Legislature's own website can help you find out.  It has search engines where you can look for topics and bill numbers, schedules, committee agendas., etc.   But I like another website that seems a little easier to navigate: Washington Votes.

Washington Votes is a non-profit organization. It aims to be a place where savvy citizens tank up on information, to keep government officials accountable.  You can track legislators' votes, bills, and topics under consideration.  You can comment or read others' comments.  I've found it to be extremely useful.

You have three goals today:

  1. Find out if the State is looking at any new legislation (laws or policies) relating to your top topic;
  2. Read summaries of bills that catch your eye; and
  3. Write a list of terms or concepts you don't understand, so you can track down answers later.

Here are some ways to get you started, using the Washington Votes site (which you'll find by clicking here):

  • Read the comments box on the right side of the page; anything catch your eye?
  • Scroll through the "most viewed bills" section. Not every bill is going to go anywhere; but if a bill generates a lot of interest or comment, that could signal it's going to get some traction. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on whether it's a good or bad idea.
  • Use the "look up bills" feature (using your topic or the number assigned to the bill) to see what pops up.
  • Sign up for free email notifications about anything having to do with your topic.  New things are added all the time, so you need help staying informed.

What do you think of the Washington Votes site?  Next time I'll tell you about some other ways to find out more about your top topic, prepping you to be an active savvy citizen.

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