State Legislators Also Hate Seasonal Time Changes: Researching Pending State Legislation

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Are you ready to spring forward? Daylight Saving Time (DST) officially begins in North Carolina at 2:00am on Sunday, March 8, so don’t forget to adjust your clocks this Saturday evening! This yearly occurrence robs Carolina Law students and faculty of an hour of precious sleep and upsets internal clocks for a bit, but should we abolish it completely?

Most are probably familiar with the recent efforts by many state legislatures to make DST permanent, but did you know that North Carolina has pending legislation on the matter? Do you want to keep your finger on the pulse of this growing movement to change the way we keep time in the United States? Read on to learn about a few research tools at your disposal to track proposed legislation across the country!

Lexis Advance’s Bill Text and Tracking

Lexis Advance’s Bill Text feature contains the full text of published versions of bills pending in both federal and state legislatures. This is an excellent tool to use when tracking bills across state legislatures on specific topics, as you can utilize terms and connectors to target your searches based on key terms or phrases. Natural language searches are also useful when researching in an area in which you don’t already have a citation or aren’t entirely sure anything relevant exists.

Be aware that you will likely see multiple versions of the same bill in your search results, and it is important to note the date and point in the legislative process to which the version is associated. In my search below for pending bills in the NCGA, I see two versions of the same bill – one version is noted as the version “introduced,” while the other is the version “filed.” There won’t always be significant differences between versions (as in my search below), but you still want to ensure that you are looking at the most-updated version in the legislative process.

Lexis Advance Bill Text
Lexis Advance Bill Text

Lexis Advance also offers one additional tool for searching pending federal and state legislation, Bill Tracking. This feature provides summaries of legislative actions on bills pending in a legislature for the current legislative session. Use this tool when you want to get a sense of where in the legislative process a pending bill might actually be.

As you can see from my search for NC H.B. 350 below, the Bill Tracking feature provides you with a visual timeline of the bill’s progress through the legislative process, and it also provides status updates near the end that note specific dates on which actions were taken related to the bill.

Finally, note that you also have access to Lexis Advance’s Legislative Outlook through this feature. Legislative Outlook uses predictive analytics to analyze the likelihood of passage for pending bills. You can read more about the feature at this link. Remember that it is always wise to treat this predictive software with a grain of salt, as it chiefly weighs the success rate of the bill's sponsor and his/her party, rather than considering the actual merits and/or popularity of the bill itself.  

Lexis Advance Bill Tracking
Lexis Advance Bill Tracking

These tools from Lexis Advance make searching across fifty state legislatures easier, and they can save an attorney time and the costs associated with time-intensive research. However, these advanced features themselves come with a cost, so be sure to consider whether you need to use a more cost-effective tool in conducting your bill tracking research.

Using State Legislatures’ Websites

Legal researchers can also monitor pending bills for free via the websites of state legislatures. Most states will provide access to the various versions of pending legislation, and many also provide bill tracking features that let you monitor the progress a bill is making through the legislative process. For example, North Carolina’s bill page for HB 350 incorporates these tools:

NCGA Website Bill Tracker
NCGA's Bill Tracker

As you can see from the image, you can easily access the two versions of the bill currently available, and you can also learn about the sponsors of the bill and its progress through the legislative process.

Ultimately, your decision as to whether to use the Lexis Advance tools or the state legislatures’ websites will hinge on your research task and cost concerns. If you need to do sweeping research across all fifty states, Lexis Advance is a strong resource. However, if you are only interested in bills from specific states or you already have citations to known pending legislation, a state legislature’s website is free and provides much of the same information as Lexis Advance.

In case you were wondering, a quick search in Lexis Advance’s Bill Tracking feature for DST bills uncovers pending legislation in multiple states and Congress! So, if you hate losing that extra hour of sleep every spring, rest assured that you aren’t alone. While seasonal time changes are probably still here for a while, the movement to change that is certainly gaining steam across this sleep-deprived nation.

If you have any questions about using these tools, please feel free to stop by the Reference Desk!

Posted by Melissa M. Hyland on Tue. March 3, 2020 9:00 AM
Categories: Uncategorized

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