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As the North Carolina General Assembly heads into a new legislative session, the basics of its work — and some of the nitty-gritty details as well — will be increasingly accessible online, thanks to a recent upgrade.

The NCGA’s official site was already pretty clean and user-friendly. “The website change was more of a refresh than a redesign,” said Kelly Stallings, web manager for the legislature, in an email to Carolina Public Press yesterday.

At the same time, the new version of the site includes not only information about veteran and newly elected legislators but also a set of streamlined and strengthened ways to track state lawmakers and their proposed laws.

Stallings explained what’s actually new about the site, including:

• A front page reorganization “to make information for the House and Senate easier to see.”

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• Links from the Legislative Calendar section to committees and their members, along with links to audio feeds of hearings, when they’re available.

• Additional information on how to visit the legislature, on an enhanced Citizen’s Guide page.

• A slew of “shortcuts and helpful links to popular pages, including to votes, committees, the legislative calendar and email subscription information.”

Browsing bills in real time, and more

As proposed legislation moves through the General Assembly, it can be hard to follow from outside the halls of power in Raleigh. But it should be easier to do so after some of the new website tweaks.

The NCGA’s page for bills/legislation was reorganized and supplemented with features that provide for browsing bills by keyword, status and other criteria as they advance or stall in the lawmaking process.

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Other changes were more cosmetic but also brought more information to the public. The member-listing pages of House and Senate members were redone and now include pictures of all the legislators, a step that might quicken constituents’ search for their elected officials.

Still others might prove useful in orienting voters within their respective districts. The pages of all General Assembly members now include maps of the districts.

According to Stallings, additional upgrades are soon to come. “We will continue to make improvements to the site throughout the session,” she said.

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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