The task of influencing legislative outcomes in the 50 states has often been likened to the carnival game Whac-a-Mole. The difference is that sometimes you are the whacker with the mallet and sometimes you are the mole trying to dodge the mallet. A new online service, the Legislative Information Services of America (LISA) is designed to provide the information and tools you need to play either role. The Dolan Company of Minnesota launched LISA this month, just in time for customers tracking the pre-filing of bills with state legislatures before the 2011 session year begins.
Databases with legislative information and bill text from the fifty states are nothing new. What is significant about LISA is that it brings you the intelligence on legislative action in real-time whenever possible. LISA has reporters sitting in 20 state legislatures, uploading information as the legislature works. For the remaining states, the service currently delivers updates on a daily basis, as other services do. The 20 states with real-time updates are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
The CEO of LISA is Andy Fish of Texas Legislative Service. He operates legislative monitoring services for Mississippi, New York, and Texas. Lori Bone, the director of operations, has had a long career in multi-state database design, including developing the NetScan legislative tracking service later acquired by Thomson West. Fish illustrates the importance of LISA’s real-time updates with a procedural example: bills may be amended by a simple majority upon their second reading; amending after that requires approval of two-thirds of the legislature, a much bigger obstacle. Lobbyists need to be on top of the action to affect the bill language on the second reading, when they have the best opportunity. Previous years of legislative data are not available on LISA, but subscribers to another vendor’s single-state content can link via LISA to that vendor’s historic information. With LISA, the emphasis is on the now.
The target audience for LISA includes corporations and national trade associations. With its dashboard interface and custom tracking tools, LISA is meant to deliver to an organization’s headquarters the same information that their lobbyists in the field have. It provides a highly customizable platform for timely collaboration and decision-making on policy. The eye-grabbing feature on LISA’s home page is a national map with outlines of the states. Click on a state to see if their legislature is in session and what procedures they are conducting right now, and to link to the chamber’s live video or audio feed. If you have configured LISA to track certain bills, the relevant state outline will blink when one of those bills comes up on floor. The blink is a fun feature, but LISA also provides sophisticated custom alerts and reports. An events feature delivers a daily calendar including that day’s expected action on your legislation of interest and any legislative deadlines. The search feature lets you set up alerts based on word searches. (LISA has Boolean, proximity, and field searching.) Multiple searches can be organized under a topic, such as environment or health. Bills can be tagged with your position (support, oppose, neutral, or support with amendments) and with a priority level you select. Alerts can run against the legislative information from one, all, or a custom grouping of states. In addition to the real-time alerts, LISA delivers daily reports on your bills and issues of interest using the NIGHTWriter tool from Fish’s single state services.
The designers of LISA have tried to incorporate or link to a wide range of legislative information useful to the lobbying professional. For example, the homepage carries a custom feed of state legislature news that can be limited to news from states of interest. The news items are drawn from multiple national and local sources monitored by the staff. LISA links directly to the state government’s own legislative web pages and bill databases. The Resources section links to outside websites with model state legislation, such as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws site. The Resources section also links to the LexisNexis Shepardize service and more content available via the pay-as-you-go LexisNexis by Credit Card service. A link to the subscription news service from StateNewslines, LLC appears as well.
LISA is offering single- and multi-year subscriptions. For more information, call 1-877-792-9991; additional contact information is listed on the LISA website.