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The N.C. General Assembly officially returns to work in Raleigh on Wednesday, and with it, Carolina Public Press’s session coverage starts back up.

As the only Western North Carolina news organization with credentialed journalists working in Raleigh, we’ll bring you our regular weekly update along with in-depth features, analysis and news stories on the twists and turns of the legislative process.

Each Monday, we’ll bring you the “Raleigh Report,” a preview of the stories driving the week, what to look for in committee hearings and the latest progress on legislation of special importance to the Western North Carolina. Check our homepage and special report section on WNC and state government for these stories.

Now, to help you stay connected, here’s a list of links and tips on how to tune into hearings, track legislation and contact your legislators throughout the legislative session.

On the Web

The N.C. General Assembly recently updated its website — adding a little friendlier feel and interface. View the website here.

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On the front page, you’ll see an array of links and guides as well as an outline of the day’s calendar. Detailed calendars for the House and Senate are published each day of the session and a running calendar of all committee hearings including lists of bills to be considered and special events such as press conferences is regularly updated here.

Individual committees have their own webpages, which include a list of members along with archives of agendas and meeting materials. Meeting materials are sometimes available ahead of time, but during the legislative session, both meeting times and agendas can change quickly. You can sign up to receive notices of meetings on the committee webpages.

An individual legislator’s page is accessible by clicking the House or Senate member list on each chamber’s page. The pages include contact information, committee assignments and links to sponsored legislation. If you’re not sure who your representative or senator is, you can search for them using your address.

To learn more about how the legislative process works (or how it is supposed to work, at least), there’s a basic Citizen’s Guide. The guide includes a brief outline of the three branches of government and their roles along with building maps and links to detailed explanations of the legislative process.

Audio

During sessions you can access the audio stream for the House and Senate chambers, two key committee rooms and official press conferences via the main audio page.

One thing to note is that although the committee rooms with audio are officially designated for the larger Finance (room 544) and Appropriation (room 643) committees, several other committees — including those overseeing agriculture, environmental policy, elections and health and human services — utilize the meeting rooms as well. You can find out where committees are scheduled to meet at the main legislative calendar.

Dashboard

In addition to the audio feed, you can follow along with House and Senate floor action by launching the dashboard from the main site and choosing a chamber. The dashboard tracks votes in real time and feeds PDF versions of bills and amendments as they come up for discussion and debate.

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Social media and feeds

The legislature has its own set of RSS feeds that you can subscribe to, but the most lively, regular updates during sessions can be found on Twitter at the #ncga hashtag. You may have to weed through the occasional partisan curmudgeon or relentless single-issue tweeter (hey, it’s Twitter), but you’ll also see an assortment of elected officials, lobbyists and journalists keeping track of bills, committee hearings and floor debates in bursts of 140 characters or less.

The General Assembly also has a mobile-friendly site with most of the basics.

Finding, tracking bills

Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned its own unique page where you can track changes, votes and sponsorships.

You can search for current and past legislation by bill number, sponsorship and bill text. A search form is available at the top of each page on the General Assembly website.

Kirk Ross

Based in the Triangle, Kirk Ross is the capital bureau chief for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at kross@carolinapublicpress.org.

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