NC House electronic cosponsorship all the rage

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.

Bazaar 

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.

Genesis

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.

85 of 120 members use the system

This session, 85 of the 120 members sponsored some bills electronically, with 12 members signing over 100 bills this way.  Representative Bill Faison led the pack with 367.  Faison told me: “The system of sponsoring bills electronically has saved a great deal of time from the former system of lining up in the Clerk’s office at the end of Session to co-sponsor bills. For me, it has not changed the number of bills co-sponsored but has made the process more efficent.”

What the entry screen looks like

As you can see below, the member (after network login) is presented in the left column with a list of bills eligible for cosponsoring, with a box to click. The member can even click a link to review the text of the bill. The right-hand column shows eligible bills for that day that the member has already cosponsored. cosponsorweb1.jpg

oh, I’ve photoshopped the image above to scrub the URL from the address bar so no one will hack the app.

Update

This story has been picked up by NCSL’s “Thicket at State Legislatures” blog.

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