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Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
Eagleton Institute of Politics

Centers/Programs


E-Gov: Best Practices


Legislatures

Most state legislatures now publish the text of pending bills and statutes online along with address lists and biographical profiles of legislators. Several have added special features, including live video and audio Webcasts of sessions and committee hearings. A growing number of states also have incorporated e-mail notification to users of specific requests, such as legislative calendars and actions on pending bills.

In some cases, the official legislature site also links to separate unofficial sites maintained by the party caucus or by individual legislators, where typically more partisan spin on issues and accomplishments of party members is highlighted. Some states have encouraged public input on issues through e-mail or online opinion forums; others appear to be wary about soliciting widespread electronic campaigns on special issues. Sources for information about online activities of state legislatures include the National Council of State Legislatures; the Council of State Governments; and Government Technology.

Minnesota Legislature
Winner of "best legislative Web site" in Eagle E-Government 2001 awards program sponsored by the Council of State Governments and the IBM Institute for Electronic Government, the Minnesota site features a clearly-designed home page and the other links to bill text common to most states. The Minnesota site, however, also includes additional content and features intended to make it easier for citizens to understand the legislative process and specific issues setting it apart from most other states, including pages on a citizen's e-guide with frequently asked questions about the legislature and tips on how to follow a bill or how to research a bill; interactive maps of legislative districts, school districts, and election results; Money Matters, a newsletter with fiscal analysis on tax and budget issues and Issue Briefs, specific issue reviews drafted by the House of Representatives Fiscal Analysis Department

Alaska Legislature
Alaska also received a 2001 Award of Excellence from the Eagle E-Government program administered by the Council of State Governments and the IBM Institute for Electronic Government. Gavel-to-Gavel Alaska features live audio and video Webcasts of legislative sessions, committee meetings, floor sessions, press conferences and other legislative events. In addition, it covers oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court, administration press conferences and briefings, general government activities, and other meetings about legislative issues or of political interest. Biographies with photos of individual legislators in the Senate  and House of Representatives  are also online, but without information on sponsored bills. One drawback of the site is its posting of many print publications online only in pdf files requiring the download of Acrobat Reader, thus limiting access.

New Jersey
New Jersey's recently revamped Web site includes a redesigned home page with all major content sources clearly posted, audio and video Webcasts and an advanced bill text search engine, along with a custom e-mail notification service to notify users of scheduled actions on specific bills in which they have indicated interest.

Wisconsin
Overall excellent site distinguished by the online edition of its annual Blue Book offering extensive information on the state government and data on population, taxes, the economy and other topics. Other sites with superior legislative Webs include Minnesota, California and New Jersey.

Massachusetts Senate E-vent Project
The E-vent Project enables school children to engage in real-time chat with members of the Massachusetts Senate via the Internet. Students submit questions to legislators via computer and receive responses to their questions instantaneously. Visitors to the site can read along while the chat is in progress.

Nebraska Legislature-The Warner Institute for Education in Democracy
Established and financed by the State government, The Warner Institute for Education in Democracy is a web-based program  to educate the public, particularly students, about representative democracy. Projects include Unicam Kids, an educational Web-based project that helps young students learn about the Nebraska Legislature and the legislative process, and UniCam Focus, an online project featuring streaming video interviews with Nebraska public officials, allowing students in grades 7-12 to hear policy-makers talk about issues related to democracy. The Warner Institute also assists teachers by providing a supplementary civics curriculum, including downloadable teaching guides and activities. College students can learn from policy-makers and political scientists with a series of lectures held at the Nebraska State Capitol.  The Institute also publishes the  Nebraska Blue Book Online, the Web version of the State's official reference guide providing information and statistics about the government and culture of the state.