Raising the Bar for Legislative Tracking

Every day, thousands of people access a variety of different systems to achieve one goal — to keep track of potential new laws as they move through the legislative process. While the importance of new legislation is different to every organization, and the work can look very different depending on the jurisdiction you’re concerned with (US state legislatures, Congress, the EU, other countries, etc.), the high-level objectives of the people responsible for this work are often similar:

  • Be aware of what’s happening
  • Understand the details and implications
  • Keep the appropriate people informed
  • React as necessary to anything that happens

These are very general goals. Still, for the most part they fit the daily routine of a majority of people working in government or legislative affairs.

What’s wrong with the legislative tracking status quo?

There are two main problems with the way many of us think about the people, functions, and tools we associate with “legislative tracking”:

1) The “legislative” part: It’s difficult to truly understand legislation by only looking at legislative information. For that, you often need basic insight into potential regulatory impact, public sentiment, and internal policies and dependencies.

2) The “tracking” part: Most people responsible for legislative tracking are actually responsible for legislative expertise — simply knowing that a bill exists and what’s in it won’t help you understand the bill as a whole, nor will you be able to help the right people in your organization understand it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with legislative tracking; it’s the first step towards legislative expertise. However, as any overwhelmed government affairs professional can tell you, a firehose of session information and bill text doesn’t lead to expertise — it leads to confusion and exhaustion

What’s the right way to think about legislation?

FiscalNote helps some of the most ambitious organizations in the world earn and maintain their legislative expertise by connecting them to something bigger — something called issues management. Issues management is more than just next-level legislative tracking, because it encompasses all of the external factors aligned to the goals of companies, associations, and nonprofits alike.

As mentioned above, those external factors are often interconnected in critical ways you simply can’t ignore. Today’s news often leads to tomorrow’s social movement, which in turn leads to a variety of complex legislative and regulatory efforts around the world. Specialization isn’t dead by any means, but silos increasingly are; while legislative experts don’t necessarily need to be regulatory gurus or media savants, they do require the ability to tap into cross-functional knowledge and expertise to do their jobs effectively.

Today’s legislation-focused systems and services don’t do that — they often stop at the water’s edge, which means you either need multiple services from multiple vendors, or you simply don’t get the full picture of what’s most important to you and your organization.

Issues management is a better way to track legislation

Issues management is a different way to think about why you’re tracking legislation. Legislative tracking is one step towards better organizational alignment on the issues affect you the most. For instance:

  • Discovery of relevant legislation is easier when you’re attuned to pre-bill language and terms from news coverage and public sentiment.
  • Prioritization is more effective with a deep understanding of the regulatory impact that came with similar legislation, or legislation in other jurisdictions.
  • Messaging and tactics are more consistent across different specialists and departments (legislative, regulatory, PR, comms) – no one has to reinvent the wheel.
  • Allocation of resources is more efficient when efforts in one area (legislative affairs) are aligned with impacts felt in other areas (regulatory affairs & compliance), you can better leverage resources across the organization.

At FiscalNote, legislative tracking has a special spot in our heart and always will — it’s where we first discovered how organizations think and react to their most impactful issues, and it’s one of the biggest challenges for our clients. Now, as many of those same organizations rethink the way they interact with a faster, more connected, and less predictable world, we couldn’t be more excited to help them do it with modern issues management technology adapted for the information age.