NC House allows members to co-sponsor bills online, new feature used 4,284 times in 2007
Reading members signatures was a drag
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives can cosponsor bills by signing the bill jacket, either before the bill is filed or up until 30 minutes after the adjournment of the session where it gets first reading. One of the biggest drudge jobs in the House Principal Clerk’s office used to be figuring out based on handwriting who had signed onto the bill as a cosponsor. This often delayed processing of the bills. Down the line, the bill typing section (part of my office) then had to type the member’s names into the bill itself before the bill could be printed.
The process of signing the bills, especially on deadline days, was also difficult, converting the floor and the clerk’s office into bazaars where bills were passed around to be signed or long lines of members formed to look at the bills, which often numbered over 200 a day at deadline.
Electronic sponsorship added to House Rules this year
This year’s permanent House rules for the first time allowed members to sponsor bills electronically from a secure web page on our network, and Rule 59 gave an incentive to use this by extending the sponsorship deadline to one hour after session if done electronically. The Principal Clerk was allowed to establish procedures for this function. Electronic cosponsorship is available beginning when the bill is filed on the clerk’s office and the clerk’s office posts the bill and it becomes a public document.
Implementation of electronic cosponsorship in the North Carolina House was the brainchild of Principal Clerk Denise Weeks, who told me “It was my idea to implement this program. I sent out an inquiry to the ASLCS listserv to see if any states had anything similar and found that Florida did. Our Information Systems Division (ISD) contacted Florida programmers and took it from there. We worked with ISD to develop an application suitable for our needs and then members of my staff provided training to the members which takes less than 5 minutes.” The practice screen used in member training is shown at the bottom of the post.
35% of all cosponsorships in the House handled online
Statistics from our Information Systems Division showed that the 2,058 House bills had a total of 4,304 primary sponsors, all of which required original signatures of the sponsors (the rules allow one to four principal sponsors on a bill). There were 13,740 cosponsorships (an average of 6.6 per bill), of which 4,824 were electronic, 35% of the total (an average of 2.3 per bill). The bill with the highest number of electronic cosponsorships was House Bill 1720, (Honor North Carolina National Guard) with 29 of the 38 signing up online.
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