Using the Alabama Legislative Information System Online to support or oppose legislation
ALISON, the Alabama Legislative Information System Online, can help any Alabama citizen to be a more effective "lobbyist" for or against state legislation. ALISON allows you to identify bills important to you. The system provides information about bills such as sponsors, history, fiscal notes, amendments and substitutions, and status. Search bills by number, keyword or content. Track their progress and use your knowledge to focus and time your advocacy effort. Here's how.
1. Go to the ALISON website online. In case you want to print in a publication, this is the ALISON web address:
2. Set the legislative session for which you want to search. If the Legislature is currently in session, ALISON should open with the current session set by default. BUT if the Legislature is not in session, click on the left-most item in the menu bar at the top of the ALISON window. It will say something like "First Special Session 2009" or "Regular Session 2010". Set it to any year/session in which you are interested. Keep in mind that bills are filed prior to the upcoming of a session, so you do not have to wait for the opening of the session to find out about much legislation that will be introduced. Would you like to do an historical search on a topic? You can search the proceedings of any legislative session back to the Regular Session of 2001 simply by setting the legislative session option to the year(s) in which you are interested.
3. Find bills of interest
Search for bills by keyword or content: In the left column, click on Bills -> Search -> Keyword or click on Bills -> Search -> Content. Type in your search words, e.g. searchword1 AND searchword2 …
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Search for bills by sponsor: Click on Bills -> By Sponsor to search by sponsor.
4. Make a list of the bills of interest for easy reference. Or open the "Personal Instrument List" feature, linked in the left menu column of ALISON, to save bill numbers for later reference.
5. Find out more about a bill and its status in the legislative process. In ALISON click on Bills -> Status in the left column. Type in the bill number (e.g. HB110) in the "Bill Number" box and click "Get Status". In the next window, highlight the bill’s button by clicking on it. Then click on History, Sponsors, Fiscal Notes, Amds/Subs and/or View for more information. Legislation is usually introduced in both the House and the Senate (different bill numbers - one for each chamber). Hopefully you have found a bill of interest while it is "in committee". Note which committees in the House and Senate are handling your legislation.
6. Get contact information for legislators who need your advocacy attention and make contact! Go to the AL Legislature website at www.legislature.state.al.us/
to search do this search. Advocacy in committee is very important. If your bill is in committee, click on House or Senate on the legislative web site (address above), then click on “Standing Committees” for a list of committees and the legislators on each committee. The names are linked to legislator contact information. Keep close track of the bill's committee meeting schedule and agenda to see when your bill might be coming up for consideration. This will help you make a timely advocacy effort. Call, email, fax, or visit the legislators on the committee. Short of visiting in person, a well-written letter is the most effective way to make your case. Concentrate on the leadership and known opponents to your position.
To see committee schedules and agendae, click on "Committee Meetings" in the left menu column of ALISON. If your bill is listed on the committee's schedule for consideration and if you see "Public Hearing" printed on the committee schedule by the bill number, you can make a statement to the committee. You do have to arrive before the committee meeting is scheduled to begin and put your name on the list of those wishing to be heard. Committee meetings are open to the public, so if your bill is on the schedule, you can sit in at the meeting to hear the deliberations whether or not there is a public hearing! And while you're in the State House, why not call on the legislators of interest in person, especially your own Senator and Representative?
7. If/when the bill has passed out of committee, check the Special Order Calendar to see when your bill might be considered by the whole body. To see this, click "Special Order Calendar" in the left menu column of ALISON. Make contact with your legislator (be sure to note that you are a constituent). You might also consider contacting the leadership of the body (e.g. Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro-Temp, etc.) and legislators known to oppose your position.
8. If your bill makes it through one legislative body, congratulations! Repeat your efforts in the second house.