The NC legislature will go into session next week to discuss Hurrican Matthew and WNC wilfire relief.
Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press
The Legislative Building, in Raleigh. The North Carolina General Assembly’s website can help you follow what elected officials are deciding, particularly when it comes to the current state budget crisis. Photo by Angie Newsome

Western North Carolina is hours away from the seat of state government in Raleigh, but the North Carolina General Assembly’s official website offers tools that can connect citizens with legislative activity, including meetings and hearings about the state budget’s $2.4 billion shortfall.

A navigation bar and search engine at the top of serves as a good guide, but here are some highlights of what the website shares:

Meet our state legislators

Site visitors can determine who their representatives are and get the full roster of all current N.C. House Representatives and Senators. Both House leaders and Senate leaders are listed.

The General Assembly’s site also has legislative committee information including who serves on which committees, what bills are being examined in which committees and when and where committees meet. The site also links to particular committees’ websites.

Biographical information about all of the state legislators — including their contact information, the counties they represent, their occupations and their military experience, if applicable — is on the site.

Individual legislator pages indicate bills a lawmaker has introduced, either as the primary or lead sponsor or as a co-sponsor.

(Carolina Public Press has also compiled listings of similar information for you, available in our Resources section.)

On the record

The site has an overview of tips for finding bills from the current legislative session and from previous sessions going back to the 1985-1986 session. Users can search by a bill’s name and number, by a bill’s full text or keywords, by a bill’s sponsor and by looking at bill reports. Previously enacted bills can be found by searching the North Carolina General Statutes.

Pages for individual bills include the full name and text of the bill, sponsors of the bill and the history of the bill. Another section of the site allows the user to search for fiscal notes on bills in the House and Senate.

Member reports, current and archived calendars for the House and Senate and committees, and committee meeting minutes are some of the other public records available on the site.

Anyone can sign up on the site, too, to receive House, Senate and committee calendars by e-mail. Through the site, visitors can also sign up to receive ratification, bill presentment, and chaptered bill updates by e-mail.

Listen to the Legislature

Visitors can also find live, real-time audio streams of sessions in the House and Senate chambers, press conferences and meetings held in the Legislature’s Appropriations and Finance Committee Rooms. Archived broadcasts of previous sessions are available, too.

Tools for learning more

The site has a glossary defining legislative terms and a list of the abbreviations used to indicate the status of a bill.

A section with educational resources and homework help is also on the site. Visitors can learn how a bill becomes a law, the structure of the state Legislature, and more about state and federal government.

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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