SBI User Guide
PREVIOUS USERS: Click here (New for 2007) to see all the improvements we've made.
What is StateBillInfo?
StateBill is Colorado's first, oldest and most respected legislative news and bill-tracking service. We may be fairly described as one of Colorado's first "e-businesses." That's because our service pre-dated the advent of the World Wide Web and the commercial Internet.
We began in 1989 as Colorado Capitol Connection. In the early days, we existed primarily to make available to our subscribers electronic copies of bill text over a common "bulletin-board" system. We created this text by scanning in paper copies of all new and amended bills in the evenings and posting them in time for our subscribers to read over night. We also posted the calendars and journals daily. As time went on, we created tools -- including "Bill Dossier," "Super Search" and "Analyze This" -- that allowed our growing subscriber base to analyze legislative activities and report on those activities to their stakeholders. Today, many in Colorado legislative circles are loyal and rabid StateBill users. Positive "word-of-mouth" is our main method in gaining new users!
Today, we're owned by Circuit Media LLC, a small, Denver-based company that also publishes Law Week Colorado, the state's only weekly newspaper for lawyers, as well as Colorado Charity, a news service for nonprofits and foundations that we operate in partnership with Blacktie-Colorado.com. You may reach us at 303-292-1212 or visit us at 1905 Sherman St., Suite 245, just a few blocks north of the capitol building.
Who uses StateBill, and why?
Lobbyists, executives, educators, government officials, lawyers and newspaper reporters -- and others -- use StateBillInfo to make sense of the legislative process and to make sure they never miss a a bill revision, a key committee meeting or a crucial floor vote. Many people visit our website every day for this information, but others have come to rely on our service mostly through e-mail.
SBI User Guide table of contents
- First things first: the SBI "home" page
- I'm ready to get started. Where do I begin?
- Finding a bill you need to know about
- Understanding Bill Center
- Searching, sorting and filtering bills in the Bill Center
- Adding bills to your Bill Dossier from Bill Center
- Understanding Super Search
- Adding bills to your Bill Dossier from Super Search
- Understanding Bill Dossier
- Creating customizable reports from the Bill Dossier
- What you need to know about e-mail delivery from SBI
- Tracking vote records in Vote Center
- Sharing information with stakeholders using Analyze This
- Resource tools aplenty in Knowledge Center
- Listen to the legislature "live" in Audio Center
- Report a problem
- Send us feedback about SBI
Because you're reading this User Guide, you already have a User ID and Password to our system on either a permanent or temporary basis. So, "Welcome!"
Undoubtedly, the first page you encountered after signing on was the StateBillInfo home page, which you can see here. The page is divided into thirds.
- At the top are the five most recent messages from SBI's administrators -- important information like new features and system updates. There's also a link to see all messages.
- The second third is devoted to the five most recent news stories selected by SBI's editor. There's also a link to see all the day's news, or to search through our news archives.
- The last third of the page is a quick look at the first most recent bills as reported in the Bill Center. And once again, there's a link that takes you to the full Bill Center.
On the left side, you'll see a tool bar that takes you directly to SBI's most important center and tools.
FIGURE: StateBill's home. Go there!
Most people use StateBillInfo for one of the following reasons:
1. To find bills they need to know about.
2. To track bills of potential interest once they've been identified, and to create customizable reports about those bills.
3. To share bills and collect information from stakeholders and constituents.
4. To analyze voting records.
5. To view our comprehensive legislator profiles and other data in our SBI Knowledge Center.
As you read on, you'll come to learn about various StateBillInfo "centers" like Bill Center, Vote Center, Audio Center and News Center as well as critically important tools like Bill Dossier, SuperSearch and Analyze This. We'll explain these centers and tools as we go along -- but if you want to view them now, just click on the links shown.
Now we'll take on each of the five most common tasks.
SBI users have a couple different ways to find out what bills are of interest. The first is by visiting the Bill Center, where you can search, sort and filter through all new and amended bills. The second is by visiting Super Search, which scours legislation for up to 100 search terms and phrases you specify.
- Bill Center (Go there!) is home to all bills, past and present, which can be searched and sorted how you want. Bills can be saved in four formats: HTML (standard), Microsoft Word, WordPerfect and Adobe Acrobat.
- With Super Search (Go there!) you can save up to 100 search terms and have it search all the bills and bill amendments as often as you want. NOTE: Super Search only searches the current legislative session.
Once again, Bill Center (Go there!) is home to all bills, past and present, which can be searched and sorted how you want.
When you sign onto Bill Center for the first time, you'll see bills from the current session displayed with newest bills first and older bills below (by far the most common setting). This is the default setting. You may change this default setting at any time, so that the bills may be displayed how you choose. You may change the settings to show:
- Oldest bills first
- Bills in order of number assignment (101, 102, 103, 104)
- Senate Bills only
- House Bills only
- Bills introduced by a certain legislator (Sen. Thompson, say)
- Bills that pertain to a certain topic (say, the environment)
- Bills from a previous session (2005? 2004?)
NOTE: You can find and set your Bill Center Preferences (Go there!) in the lower right hand corner of Bill Center (Go there!).
On the left side of the Bill Center page, you'll see the same navigational tool bar you saw on the home page. It's on most SBI pages.
On the right side of the Bill Center, you'll see a tool bar that includes a variety of search, sort and filter options. Those are addressed in the next section.
FIGURE 2: Bill Center. Go there!
This section also could be titled "surfing through Bill Center."
You can watch bills as they stream into the SBI system. Or you may search through, sort, or filter the bills in a variety of different ways:
- Search by search term
- Filter by year
- Filter by legislator
- Filter by subject (new in 2007)
- Sort by bill number
- Sort by newest to oldest
- Sort by oldest to newest
New bills are tagged with a "new" flag for the first seven days so they are instantly identifiable.
Bills that are of interest to you may be immediately added to a Bill Dossier. The Bill Dossier does most of your routine or grunt work by gathering information from the calendars, journals and status sheets on bills of interest to you. This will save you well over 30 minutes a day and ensure that you miss no vital information. In the next section, we'll explain how to add bills to your Bill Dossier from the Bill Center.
NOTE: You may have your Bill Dossier reports sent to you daily via e-mail. For more information, see: What you need to know about e-mail delivery from SBI.
FIGURE: In Bill Center, the search, sort and filter functions are on the right-hand toolbar. Go there!
As we've said, the Bill Dossier does most of your routine or grunt work by gathering information from the calendars, journals and status sheets bills of interest to you. This will save you well over 30 minutes a day and ensure that you miss no vital information.
Within Bill Center, it's simple to add bills to any of your Bill Dossiers. Just click on the bill text. At the top of the text are the words "Add this bill to dossier" and a box that pulls up all of your current Bill Dossiers. To select a dossier to which to add the bill, just click on it. To select more than one dossier, click on several dossiers while holding down the control key. The system will immediately tell you that the selected bill has been added to your desiginated dossier.
In a future section, you'll learn how to add a bill to a dossier using Super Search.
FIGURE: Add bills to your dossier in the Bill Center.
Google lets you search one term at a time. SBI Super Search lets you enter up to 100 terms or phrases! Plus, it saves your searches for future access.
FIGURE: Super Search. Go there!
When you open up Super Search, you'll see blank boxes in which to input 100 search terms. Enter them, then hit one of the search buttons. You may either search a single term, or on terms Nos. 1-25, Nos. 26-50, Nos. 51-75 or Nos. 75-100. (SBI uses this to conserve system resources so that all users have a good experience.) When you search a term or terms, SBI brings up the number of time that terms have occurred in legislation during the current year. When you click on the number of occurrences, it brings up the list of the bills and amendments containing that particular term.
At this point, you may open the individual bill text and find the term your requested highlighted within the bill text.
Super Search will also tell you when a new occurrence of an already existing term appears in a bill, which typically happens when a bill has been updated or amended. This is extremely useful as legislation changes on a daily basis, and one of your key terms may be inserted long after the bill's formal introduction into the General Assembly.
IMPORTANT: You may have your Super Search reports sent to you daily via e-mail. For more information, see: What you need to know about e-mail delivery from SBI.
FIGURE: Super Search inputs are visible whenever you click Super Search in the left-side toolbar. Go there!
Within SuperSearch, it's simple to add bills to any of your Bill Dossiers. First, go to your search results. Next to each bill returned, there's a box on the right-hand side that simply says, "Add to dossier." To select a dossier to which to add the selected bill, just click on it. To select more than one dossier, click on several dossiers while holding down the control key. The system will immediately tell you that the selected bill has been added to your desiginated dossier.
FIGURE: You add bills to dossiers from Super Search by looking at individual search results, then clicking on the button that reads "Add to Dossier."
The Bill Dossier is the most-used tool on StateBill Info, hands down. Bill Dossier lets you create over 100 folders or dossiers, which can contain over 100 bills in each. You can add different legislative components to each dossier. Organize these dossiers in whatever way is most effective for you and your clients – these dossiers can be the basis of your reporting on legislation to your clients or stakeholders!
FIGURE: Bill Dossier main. Go there!
Before setting up your dossiers, take some time to think through the different ways you would like to see different pieces of information so that you make the most of this special feature. Many of our users create different dossiers for different clients. Others create topic-specific dossiers, say, one called "HealthCare" and one called "Environment."
To create a dossier:
- Go to Bill Dossier, select add new dossier and give this new dossier a name.
- Below the name, you are asked to decided how your dossier will look:
- The most common dossier type is the default setting -- "Regular Dossier." This dossier can contain as many components as you wish, in any combination.
- A second dossier type is "Custom Calendar." This returns a calendar for which the bills you've selected are highlighted.
- The final dossier type is "Custom Status Sheet Dossier." This contains the most recent status of all the bills contained in that dossier.
- As we've stated, most users rely on the "Regular Dossier." This dossier allows users to gather the most relevant information from a variety of different sources. It also allows users to "mix and match" the information desired to produce the optimum report for you! You may select from:
- Calendar Notification - lists bills that are on the current calendars.
- Bill Voting Records - lists voting records for bills if available Bill Status History - lists all the statuses, except for the most recent one, of a bill.
- Bill Amendments - lists the recent amendments of a bill.
- Most Recent Bill Status - lists the most recent status of a bill only.
- Bill Title - lists a bill's title (not needed if the Bill Summary box is checked.
- Bill Summary - displays a bill's summary.
- Fiscal Note - displays a bill's fiscal note or its status.
- Comments: Type comments to appear in your dossier to describe or clarify anything you wish.
FIGURE: Bill Dossier editor. Go there!
At this point, you'll want to choose bills to track in this dossier. Again, scroll through the list, holding the control button as you click on each bill you want. Once you’ve created and saved the dossier, go to the Bill Dossier page and see your dossier there. This dossier is entered but is not yet updated.
Viewing Your Dossier:
You can view any of your bill dossiers by going to your main Dossier page Go there! and looking at the far right column titled "Actions." Then click "Update." Finally, click "View."
FIGURE: Actions you can take with a Bill Dossier.
At this point, you'll see your up-to-the-minute Bill Dossier, as represented in the screen shot below.
IMPORTANT: When you view your dossier on the SBI web site, you must click the update button every time you want to view the latest dossier results; if you don't click update, you'll call up the latest updated version of your dossier, not the absolute up-to-the-minute version. An exception is when you have dossiers e-mailed to you -- those dossiers are updated nightly. For information on receiving your dossiers by e-mail, see: What you need to know about e-mail delivery from SBI.
FIGURE: View of a Bill Dossier report.
FIGURE: Actions you can take with a Bill Dossier.
In the section above, we described actions you can take with a Bill Dossier. The simplest of them is to "Update" and "View" a dossier in a web-friendly (HTML) format. But you may also download your dossier to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, to a Microsoft Word document or to any document that supports the "RTF" or "Rich Text Format" document standard.
Here is a report downloaded to Excel:
[+FIGURE: A Bill Dossier report downloaded to Microsoft Excel.
Once a report has been downloaded to Excel, or to one of the other formats, you may add to it or otherwise alter it for final output to your clients or stakeholders.
Some SBI users prefer to automatically add their logo to these reports. To do that, here's all you do: Find your logo and right click on that with your mouse. Hit the Control key and C at the same time to copy the logo. Now, go to the main Bill Center page, select Properties in the upper right-hand corner and paste in the the entire URL by hitting the Control key and V. You can also put your company name, or your name, or whatever tag line you want, in the header field. This text will appear with your logo.
Much of the information you retrieve from the SBI website can be sent to you by e-mail. This includes:
- New or amended bills from the Bill Center.
- Your Bill Dossier reports.
- Your Super Search reports.
- New calendars, journals and status sheets.
FIGURE: Bill Center e-mail (lower righthand corner). Go there!
New information available Jan. 8, 2007.
In Vote Center, you may view legislative voting histories in several ways so you can identify meaningful patterns in how legislators are aligned with your agendas.
FIGURE: Vote Center. Go there!
In this section you can see the bill number, which again is linked to the bill text, along with the bill description, the number of votes the bill has received, the bill sponsor, the number of legislators who voted, and the number and percentages who voted "Yes" and "No."
Vote By Legislator:
Here you can choose a legislator and see all the votes made by that legislator. This provides the bill number (linked to text), the description, the votes made, the sponsor, how your legislator voted, and how the majority voted. If you click the legislators vote you will see the vote detail for that vote.
Here you create agendas or collections of bills of interest to you, your organization or clients. Then SBI calculates and summarizes how various legislators are aligned with your agendas. You can create as many different agendas you want with as many bills in each agenda as you like.
* Click "New Agenda" and name your agenda.
- Now select the list of bills you want in this particular agenda – just press the control button as you click your mouse on the bills you want as part of this agenda.
- Then hit "Continue."
- Next indicate yours, your organizations or your clients’ position on these bills by voting yes or no.
- Click "Save."
To View Results
* Click "View Both" to view Senate/House or both votes. For each legislator, StateBillInfo will calculate and compare their voting history against yours or your clients. The percentage match reflects all the bills in that agenda. Again, if you click the Y or N vote that will take you to the detailed vote count for that particular vote.
Again, in Vote Center you can search, sort and view votes however is most convenient to you. You can sort by bill number, by session, by sponsor, limit to particular bill numbers, and view only House, Senate or both.
Analyze This allows you to send bills to your stakeholders or experts so they can provide feedback and analysis of that legislation.
FIGURE: Analyze This. Go there!
How to use Analyze This:
- First enter your e-mail address so that your analysts know who is sending them the bills.
* Select a list of bills that you want to send to your analysts by clicking the bill, and holding down the Control key to select several at one time.
* Select whether your want full bill text or summaries only sent, and whether you prefer them sent in HTML or WORD PERFECT.
* Enter the e-mail addresses of your analysts. Currently these are entered separately but soon we will have a distribution list that allows you to create several lists to send bills out in a batch process.
- Send your bills to your analysts.
* Analysts receive the e-mail. The subject line to them will state “Sender’s name” requests your feedback on “Bill Number”. In the e-mail text, they will see your comments, your request for comment, and the entire bill text. They click a link to respond. This link takes them to StateBillInfo, where they are given the option to "support," "oppose" or "monitor" this bill, and to provide comments. They complete the information and send it back to you, the subscriber.
* When you are ready to view your analysts feedback, you can view "All Feedback," which is all feedback by all analysts on all bills, or "View by Analyst," "View by Month," "View by Client" or "View by Bill"
FIGURE: Knowledge Center reference links. Go there!
SBI's new Knowledge Center is a repository of tough-to-obtain information, including:
- Comprehensive legislator lists
- Detailed legislator profiles
- Legislator mail addresses (including mailing labels)
- Legislator e-mail addresses
- Legislative committees
- Legislative district maps and demographics
- Elected official profiles
- Profiles of outgoing and incoming cabinet members
- Executive branch profiles
- Judicial branch profiles
- Historical profiles ... and more!
Also, there's access to House/Senate Journals, Calendars, Status Sheets in the Knowledge Center and on the left-side toolbar. In each of these links, you can have your calendars, journals and/or status sheets e-mailed to you. For more information, see: What you need to know about e-mail delivery from SBI.
In the audio center, you can hear real-time streaming audio of what is happening on the floor and in the committee rooms, including the Joint Budget Committee room and the Legislative Services building.
FIGURE: Audio Center. Go there!
On the left-side toolbar, there's a place for reporting problems called Feedback: Errors.
FIGURE: Help section is on left-side toolbar.
On the left-side toolbar, there's a place for submitting comments and suggestions called Feedback: General.
FIGURE: Help section is on left-side toolbar.