Tracking the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The state legislative season 2016 is in full swing and so we thought we'd make a quick post about how to submit online testimony and a simple way to track the bills you want to follow.
If you are dismayed by all the bills in the legislature that are attempting to dismantle the protections put in place for our resources and our rights to access them and want to do your part in stopping them from progressing we have 2 simple and effective tips for you:
1) Submit online testimony. It can be as simple as participating in a poll (like the kine you often see in online newspapers, but with greater impact!), or if you want to, you can provide more substantive comments. You do have to make an account at capitol.hawaii.gov first—just once! After that, go for it! You can search by bill numbers (no space between HB/SB and the number) or by keyword.
Once you’re on the page specific to that measure look for a little button at the top right that says “submit testimony). There’s a place to add comments if you have them, but this is a situation where you don’t want perfection to be the enemy of the good! Even if you don’t have your thoughts perfectly laid out, go ahead and select “support” or “oppose” to get on the record. Those will be tallied even if there are no comments attached. You can always go back and submit again if you have comments you want to add.
2) Get an RSS reader to organize your bills. Tracking bills (and their companion measures) can get a little tangled, but I was recently introduced to an RSS reader called feedly that's really helped! RSS stands for Rich Site Summary and is basically a headline from certain sites that have quick changing content (like a newsfeed, a blog or in our case, legislative schedule/updates). What is RSS? explains it well: "It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter." Sounds awesome, right? Here's a step-by-step guide to get you started:
- Go to feedly.com or another RSS reader and make an account. Feedly allows you to connect to an existing account (which saves you the hassle of making yet one more login/password OR you can create a feedly specific account); click on the button that says "add content"
- Now, in another tab or window, head to capitol.hawaii.gov and search for a bill that you want to follow. For example, let's say you put in HB2712 (the awful Science Subzones bill)
- Once you get to the page specific to that measure, you will see the bill number big and blue at the top of the page. Right next to that you'll see 2 small icons, one is the pdf symbol (which allows you to download a pdf of the bill text) and the other is the symbol for RSS (orange in this case and looks like a wi-fi symbol coming from the corner of the box)--that's the one we want, go ahead and click on it!
- The next page will look like gibberish to most of us--you are in the right place! Copy the url (web address, should start with www) and paste it into the search box on your feedly (RSS reader); select it from the pull down menu HB#### Status Feed; it will pop up in a little window to the left where you can re-name into something identifiable (instead of just HB2712, you can re-name it HB2712: Science Subzones)
- You will want to repeat the last 2 steps for each measure you want to follow; building up the bills you can follow
- That's basically it! You can click on "organize" if you want to make folders to separate by topic or group companion bills together.
- Now each time you go to feedly, if you click on "all" it will show you one line updates for anything you are following that has new information to report
This tool has really helped me to feel less overwhelmed by all the important bills I want to follow. I hope it can do the same for you too!