Dozens, if not hundreds, of new bills are introduced at the Minnesota Legislature every week, and the lucky ones that progress toward becoming laws first have to make it through several committee hearings in both the Senate and House of Representatives, where they can be gutted, killed, transformed or beefed up.
So, how to keep track of the bills that are important to you? The Minnesota Legislature’s answer is called MyBills, a free subscription service that allows you to keep track of bills based on their topic or their author.
Once you select a bill to start following, you can receive e-mails (sorry, no texts) notifying you of any modifications or movement of that bill through the legislative process. You will even receive alerts that let you know beforehand when the bill you’re following has been scheduled for a committee hearing or put on the House or Senate calendar for a possible floor vote.
Be warned, however. It’s easy to sign up to follow so many bills that you’ll quickly suffer from information overload. At last count, 3,024 bills had been introduced in the Senate and 3,386 in the House during this two-year session. And most of them are still considered active, meaning their authors could try to get hearings in committee before this session ends.
Of course, most of them aren’t going anywhere. Lawmakers introduce several bills each year just so they can put something on their campaign literature saying they authored a bill to do such-and-such, never mentioning that it lay there for two years dead as a doornail.
Others, especially in the minority, complain that they want hearings on their bills but committee chairs from the majority party refuse to grant them.
Still others move from committee to committee during the session, apparently headed for a final vote, but never receiving one.
And many bills get enfolded into an omnibus budget or policy bill as one paragraph amongst hundreds of pages, so it’s still easy to lose track of them.
Still, MyBills is a great service for policy wonks and informed citizens who want to keep an eye on the Legislature.