Richmond Sunlight Busy Covering 2010 General Assembly

The 2010 Session is Underway

This year’s General Assembly session kicked off yesterday, and it promises to be a lively one. Tuesday’s special election gave Democrats an extra seat in the Senate, two more than the Republicans, but November’s election saw Republicans handily taking the governor’s seat from Democrats with the victory of Bob McDonnell. The House remains firmly in control of Republicans, who increased the size of their majority in the last election. No strong themes have emerged yet in the bills filed so far (1,858 and counting), but a glance at the list of topics reveals a lot of bills about business regulation, taxes, transportation, voting, crime, and healthcare. And since it’s an even-numbered year, that means that the budget will be set for the next two years, so we can expect some wrangling about that over the next sixty days.

Some Richmond Sunlight Features You Might Find Useful

To try and keep up with the annual torrent of legislation, here are five great Richmond Sunlight features that you might not know about that will help you sort through all of it.

  1. iPhone App. Sometimes you’ve just got to know about a bill or a legislator when you’re not in front of a computer. No problem. Visit on your mobile phone, and you can get the basic information on any bill or legislator quickily and easily. It’s not fancy, but, hey, that’s the idea.
  2. Recently Introduced Bills. Don’t want to miss a single bill? No problemo—visit the Newest Bills page and see a listing of which bills have been filed in the past few days, grouped by day. Perfect for you obsessive legislation watchers.
  3. Daily Calendar. We automatically assemble a calendar of what’s on tap in the legislature for the day by gathering up all kinds of information from the legislature’s website and combining them in one place. Think of it as a day-at-a-glance for folks who want to know exactly what they’re up to in Richmond.
  4. Photosynthesis. It can be tough to remember to keep up with every bill that gets your attention. Photosynthesis allows you turn that light into energy (pardon the pun). Log into your Richmond Sunlight account and every time you visit a bill page, you’ll see a “Track this Bill” button. That’ll add it to your Photosynthesis portfolio, giving you one page where you can track all of the bills that interest you, complete with space to take notes on each bill. It’s all public and shared with other members of the site, automatically—you can even send people your Photosynthesis page address to bring your bills to their attention.
  5. Bills Recommended for You. Every time that you post a comment, vote on a bill, add a bill to your Photosynthesis portfolio, or even look at a bill, Richmond Sunlight gets a better idea of what kind of legislation that you’re interested. We use that to recommend a list of bills tailored to your interests that you haven’t seen yet, but that we’re pretty sure you’ll be interested in. If that sounds a little magical, that’s because it is.

A Note on the Budget

One thing that can be confusing to track online is the budget process. The budget bill is one really long bill, with legislators proposing amendments to it, each amendment providing or removing funding for a particular program or entity. Since Richmond Sunlight is designed primarily to track bills, not budget amendments, you really can’t track the budget very easily on Richmond Sunlight. (Sorry. This makes us sad, too.) The good news is that the General Assembly provides a handy way to track all of these budget amendments, once they start rolling in: their state budget website. As legislators start filing their proposed changes, you’ll find a bunch of links on that page that list every legislator and all of their proposals, with dollar values attached to each. If you want to keep an eye on the budget, bookmark that page and expect to return to it regularly in the weeks ahead.

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