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How to Track Legislation Every Step of the Way

by Lydia Stowe, FiscalNote

It's easy to lose track of legislative issues, so rely on this comprehensive guide for staying on top of legislation that's important to your organization.

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Government affairs teams are being asked to track more legislation and policy issues than ever before. Almost 40 percent of government affairs professionals say they follow at least 10 issues, a FiscalNote survey found. That number continues to rise, with 60 percent saying their organization follows more policy now than it did last year. This may account for the fact that 45 percent said they are stressed due to fear of missing something related to relevant legislation.

It’s easy for legislation to get lost in the torrent of new ideas and bills presented every year at various levels of government, whether you’re tracking legislation at a local, state, federal, or even global level — or sometimes all three at once. But missing important legislation that impacts your organization can have devastating consequences on your organization’s credibility, stakeholders, and bottom line.

This saturation of new legislation makes it more vital to keep an eye on the things that are important to your organization to mitigate risk and capitalize on opportunities. Not sure where to start? Read on to find out how to prioritize and stay on top of the legislation that matters most.

The State of Government Affairs: 2022 Industry Report

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Decide What Legislation Matters Most

It’s essential to prioritize legislative issues or bills for easier, more organized tracking. It’s nearly impossible to watch all the legislation passing through various governing bodies, so staying narrow and specific on bills of interest is crucial to your tracking strategy. Work with your organization’s leadership to determine the top areas that are most impactful so you know what you need to track.

It’s also helpful to have a strategy in place and frequent check-ins with your team throughout the year for identifying new, relevant legislation, as your organization’s list of priorities may constantly be changing. Using legislative tracking software allows you to identify new legislation easily, without having to find it manually by checking state and federal websites daily for updates.

Stay Organized

Once you’ve identified your key issues and priorities, it’s vital to create a system of organization to successfully track identified legislation. This system should be used across your organization, so it should be accessible to everyone for transparency and collaboration.

Sandy Guenther, manager of state government affairs at the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, recommends organizing your keywords by issue and also by importance. By doing this, when you start getting alerts about legislation, you’ll be able to determine if it’s something you need to take immediate action on or if it’s an update you have to monitor.

“It's a hierarchy system you want to try and create,” Guenther says. “If you're consistent with the way that you organize your information, consistent with the way you tag it or label it, then it's just going to make your life so much easier when it comes time for reporting trying to find like a specific piece of information that you're looking for.”

Create a Central Hub of Legislation

A key part of organizing the legislation you’re tracking is being able to centralize the information so your entire team can view all bills being tracked. This can further your organization's institutional knowledge and save time and money. Rather than relying on individual spreadsheets or a wide variety of repositories for relevant information, a central hub streamlines your workflow and makes it less likely that you’ll miss any important legislation.

Tag Bills with Notes or Criteria

Include relevant details on each piece of legislation including your organization’s stance on the bill, level of priority, and which issue it falls under. You can also include legislation’s relevance to your organization’s mission as a reminder of why it’s important and the impacts it could have on your organization.

Find, track, and report on your policy issues in minutes

Staying on top of your greatest policy issues has never been more important. You need the latest and greatest strategies for saving time and maximizing resources.

Keep Your Legislation Tracking Up-to-Date

Legislative processes can move fast — if you don’t check the legislation process or your internal database frequently, you might miss something important. Because of the fast pace, you can’t afford to take a break.

With legislative tracking software, you can set up custom alerts to track any movement on the bills you’re watching and get a heads up as soon as something happens. Even if you aren’t constantly checking, these alerts can provide peace of mind that you’re not missing a beat and your window of opportunity to act won’t pass.

Even during “quiet times” before sessions start, use the time to prepare your strategy and get ahead of upcoming discussions so you can focus on getting your issues past the finish line faster.

Continue to Follow Important Legislation After It’s Enacted

After legislation is enacted, don’t just check it off your list and move on. It can be useful to track it even after it has been enacted since it can impact future regulations. Often, the minute a bill passes and is signed, a court challenge is ready and waiting. In some cases, legislation can be voided entirely. In others, pieces of the law may be nullified or changed.

There’s also the implementation of the law to think about. While bills are often quite specific in some areas, other areas may be vague, with lawmakers relying on agencies to create regulations that implement the intent of the law. These regulations have their own public process you need to monitor.

Track More Than Legislation

In addition to tracking official legislation, it can be illuminating to follow the conversations surrounding particular issues. Often, these can be just as relevant and sometimes even more helpful than only tracking the official legislation process. It’s important to pay attention to specialized news and analysis, social media, and market intelligence to keep abreast of all factors playing into the legislative process. Also, understanding what lawmakers are saying about certain legislation can help you know who you need to connect with and influence.

How to Brief Like a Pro

Download this report that includes best practices, expert input and industry insights, so you can put your best foot forward and move the needle on your biggest legislative and regulatory issues.

Receiving expert insights and analysis can also provide more depth as you seek to understand the larger impact of an issue on your organization. In-depth, curated analysis of geopolitical, economic, or societal trends in your sector and the business implications, all customized to your organization, can take your legislation tracking efforts to the next level and allow you to minimize risk and capitalize on opportunities.

Evaluate Your Efforts

As you become more involved with tracking legislation, you’ll need systems that allow you to determine areas of success and areas where you have room for improvement, so you can adapt your legislative strategy based on the results. This is important not only for your own reference but to show others in your organization, including the leadership team, stakeholders, and advocates.

Creating informed, up-to-date briefings or policy reports is likely one of the most visible parts of your job to higher-ups and peers, and it could be what keeps you hired and gets you promoted as it demonstrates the ROI of your team. Using a tool to create reports makes it easy to produce data-driven, visually appealing reports in minutes.

Track Every Piece of Legislation with FiscalNote

With this rapid increase in important issues to follow, some things slip through the cracks — only 5 percent of government affairs professionals say they never miss any important information related to their issues, according to a FiscalNote survey, while more than 80 percent miss at least an occasional update.

Staying on top of your most significant policy issues has never been more important. But with issues becoming increasingly complicated, you need the latest and greatest strategies for saving time and maximizing resources. Learn how FiscalNote’s solutions can help you find, track, and report on your policy issues in only a matter of minutes.

Automating the tracking of legislation can save more time for team members to engage with legislators on important issues and move your organization’s issues forward. With FiscalNote, your team, no matter the size, can effectively discover and monitor legislative and regulatory developments, prioritize outreach, and manage relationships with policymakers and other influential stakeholders.

Ready to see for yourself?

Learn how FiscalNote can help you stay one step ahead of tracking, responding to, and influencing the regulations that impact your organization most.

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