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What can you do with AK BASIS?

If you want to follow state legislation in Alaska, you’ll need to make BASIS your friend. As I mentioned in a previous post, BASIS is a searchable database of bills before the current legislature. But there is much more than that at the BASIS home page of http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/start.asp. For starters, you can research bills online going back to 1994. You can also get the text of the House and Senate Journals to 1994, the Governor’s Executive Orders from the first one issued in 1959, minutes and audio of committee meetings and the latest session laws.

You have a number of choices in looking for bills on BASIS.  The search box on the front page allows you to search for bill titles or bill number. For example, if you typed “permanent fund” into the search box, you’d get seven bills (as of 1/18/2009), six in the House and one in the Senate. Roll your mouse over the titles to get more title information, then click on the bill number for current bill status and text.

But there are a number of other ways to search BASIS:

  • Statistics
  • Actions by Date
  • Awaiting Action
  • Governor’s Vetoes
  • Passed Legislation
  • Bills in Committee
  • Sponsor Summary
  • Requestor Summary
  • Subject Summary

In my work as a librarian, I find the most useful searches from the above list are Statistics, Sponsor Summary and Subject Summary.

Statistics is sort of a hidden gem. I know the word sounds dull, but this is how you can find the latest bills and actions in the Legislature. Click on the link, enter today’s date for both the start and end date next two “Introduced/Offered Date Range” and you’ll have a list of newly introduced bills for that day. In prior years, it’s been best to wait till after 10am to do this. I’m not sure why.

Sponsor summary is an easy way to discover the bills your Representative or Senator has introduced or cosponsored during the current Legislative Session. All you have to do is to click the name of your legislator. For example, my Representative is Beth Kerttula. As of 1/18/2009, she has sponsored the following bills:

  • HB 32 NOTIFIC. OF STATE POSITION
  • HB 45 DIVEST INVESTMENTS IN SUDAN
  • HB 47 RUNOFF ELECTION FOR STATE LEGISLATOR
  • HB 52 POST-TRIAL JUROR COUNSELING
  • HB 55 PUPIL/TEACHER RATIO IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
  • HB 56 STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
  • HB 57 CHILD CARE CTRS: STATE EMPLOYEES & OTHERS

In Basis, this list would also show the current bill status along with a link to the text of the bill.

Finally, the Subject Summary is a browsable list of subjects. Clicking on a subject brings up a list of bills. For example, clicking on the subject of Alcohol brought up one bill as of 1/18/2009, “SB 21 MENTAL HEALTH CARE INSURANCE BENEFIT”

Once you have located a bill of interest, BASIS allows you to track through the free Bill Tracking Management Facility (BTMF). You will need to set up a free account, but you are only asked to provide a name and e-mail. It takes less than a minute to get started.

Once you’re logged in, you’ll need to create a “bill folder.” Just click on the button that says “Add BTMF Folder” and call it something related to the subject of your bills, like “PFD Legislation” Then type in the bill numbers you wish to track separated by commas like in this example from BTMF – “hb1,sb234,hr12,sb123,sscr1”. After you’ve set up your folder, you can choose to get alerts either by e-mail or as an RSS feed. Using the RSS feed gives you the option to embed your tracked legislation into other web pages including your Facebook account and other social networks.

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