Please join us in welcoming Mountain State Spotlight’s West Virginia Capitol tracker to the world! We’re unveiling this tracker to make it easier for you to follow individual bills through the lengthy legislative process — as well as to easily contact your elected representatives to tell them about issues that affect you and your family.
Why we built this tool
An important part of Mountain State Spotlight’s mission is using our reporting to give West Virginians the information you need to make decisions and advocate for change in your communities. And that mission doesn’t end with our reporting. With face-to-face contact with legislators even more limited due to COVID restrictions, it’s perhaps even more important this year that lawmakers hear from their constituents.
To that end, our tool will connect West Virginians with their state senators and delegates; you can see who your elected officials are with a quick search of your address, and call or email them through our app.
Also important to transparency: providing timely information about which bills are moving, which ones aren’t, and how close any given measure is to its final passage.
Mountain State Spotlight reporters won’t be writing stories from every committee meeting as lawmakers debate bills. We’ll be watching, but instead of reporting on this incremental progress, we’ll add depth and context to the debate, explain how the issues will affect you and your families, as well as the most vulnerable West Virginians, and remind you who is — and isn’t — wielding power under the golden dome.
But that being said, we can’t cover every bill. This tracker will help everyone — both you and our reporters — keep an eye on what’s moving and what’s not. This will be especially important in a year when legislative leaders have said they expect a fairly brisk pace even in the early days of the session.
Here’s what this tool does
There are three main components to our legislative tracker: the timeline, the search boxes and the bill tracking.
Every 60-day legislative session has a lot of deadlines. There’s the deadline to introduce bills, the deadline to get bills out of committee, the deadline for bills to pass their house of origin (crossover day) and the deadline for passage. As the session progresses, the timeframe narrows and the chance that lawmakers will pass a bill decreases if the bill isn’t already moving. The timeline will show you where we are in the 60-day session; it will automatically move to the right each day as time passes.
The search boxes
Our tracker has two search boxes next to each other.
The left one will allow you to search for a bill or lawmaker by name. Just start typing a bill number (either “SB 101” or “101” will work) or a keyword that’s in the bill (like “PSC” or “tax”). From there, you can select “view” to see the bill page, including the bill’s full text and where it is in the legislative process. If you click “follow” in the top corner, it will save this bill for you (more on this later).
If you’re searching for a lawmaker, you can use a lawmaker’s first or last name (either “Roger” or “Hanshaw” will bring up the speaker of the House of Delegates). Selecting “view” will bring you to the lawmaker page, which will show you how to contact them, as well as all of the measures they have sponsored during this year’s session.
The right search box will let you look up your state senator and delegates. Just type in your full address and hit “enter.” The tool will tell you who represents you in the West Virginia Legislature, and how to reach them.
The bill tracking
Here, you’ll see a list of bills that our reporters are watching particularly closely. They’ll be marked with indicators that they could move quickly (“green lights” include a powerful sponsor, or bipartisan support) or that passage is less likely (“red lights” include that a bill has been referred to several committees, or that a powerful lawmaker has registered opposition).
If you click on the bill, you’ll see a page that includes incremental updates from our reporters, as they follow measures through committees and floor sessions. It’ll also link to additional reporting we’ve done on issues that pertain to the bill.
We know you may want to keep an eye on other bills. And that’s why if you search for these bills in the search box and click “follow,” they’ll appear here as a bill you follow. (This is device-specific, so if you visit the site on both your phone and computer, you’ll need to follow the bill on each.)
Tell us what you think
We want to know what you think about this tracker, how you’re using it and what else you need to stay up-to-date with the West Virginia Legislature. What bills do you think we should follow more closely? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.