Given how much energy and resources the government puts into tracking us, it seems only fair that we be allowed to track them right back. Fortunately, the Texas Legislature has made that possible. As you know, the Texas Legislature is back in session. So now is a good time to look at some of the online resources available to follow the sausage-making process.
First, there’s the website—or, more accurately, the websites. There’s a website for traditional computers. (Yes, “traditional computers” is now a thing.) Then there’s a website for mobile devices. You can access both websites from either your computer or your mobile device. The difference is in layout, and the mobile website is more limited in its scope.
The website for the mobile device has some nice features if you are actively following certain activities of the legislature. But I want to focus instead on how to follow bill activity and receive updates about them. To do this, you need to go to the main website, and you need to create a personal account.
At the top of the main page for the legislature, there is a menu bar. One of the options on the menu bar is “My TLO.” (If it’s not abbreviated, it’s not trendy, LOL!) That gives you a few choices: Bill Lists, Alerts, Saved Searches, etc.
“Bill Lists,” as the name suggests, allows you to put certain bills you want to follow into a group of your naming. Then, every time you visit the website, you can run a report to view the activity on each of the bills in the list.
“Saved Searches” is handy when, for example, you want to regularly look for certain terms appearing in any bill. Once you’ve performed a specific search, you can save your search criteria. This allows you to find the same thing quickly every time you want an update. Start by going to the search page, selecting the type of search, and entering your criteria. Once you run the search, you will have an option to save the search near the top right of the screen.
Next time you want to perform the search, just go to your saved searches in My TLO.
The last item I want to cover is “Alerts.” You can use this section to receive email notifications under a wide variety of circumstances. This section has a lot of options that are worth exploring if you are deep into the weeds of legislative bill making. For those of us that are more casual Texas Legislature field observers, there are a couple of alter options that are more pertinent. The first is “Subjects Alerts.” This allows you to receive alerts about a subject-matter that is of particular relevance to you.
Since we are all appellate practitioners, the “Courts–Appellate” subject might be of particular relevance. To add it, click on “Add Subjects to My List.”
Scroll down. Select the desired subject. Then click on the “Add Subject(s)” button. You will then start receiving emails about activities on bills within your subject, such as the bill to create chancery courts in Texas.
The second general alert that might be of interest to you is “Adjournment Alerts.” This will send a simple update when each legislative branch has adjourned and for how long it will be adjourned.
The information on the legislative websites allows you to tailor the information available to your needs. Obviously that requires your focus and time to get everything set up the way you like it. If you’d prefer to rely on the hard work of others (and not re-invent the wheel), the Appellate Section of the State Bar of Texas has just what you need. They have a webpage dedicated to providing legislative updates on “proposed legislation might affect the practice of civil trial and appellate lawyers and the judiciary.” This webpage is curated by Jerry Bullard. Mr. Bullard also sends out an e-newsletter on the topic. If you are interested in being added to the list, visit the Appellate Section’s legislative update webpage for more information.
Staff attorney, First Court of Appeals
Comments, questions, and useful information are always welcome (and desperately sought). Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.