The Evolution of Legislative Management

agenda-ipad-cloud-folderToday’s legislative management is a far cry from a mere decade ago, so just imagine how far we’ve come since the first legislative records were put to clay tablet four and a half millennia ago. There was a time, during the young history of our country, that the legislative clerical process demanded a greater paper supply than was available; today, we’re trying to get rid of paper altogether in order to adopt more eco-friendly processes and save on material cost.

Between shorthand and typewriters, from the mid 1800s to the 1980s, there certainly were some changes, but not a whole lot of big evolutions. With the 80s, however, came the explosion of computers in the workplace. The advantages of digitizing workflow and eliminating redundancy were more than readily apparent.

Macro-Evolution #1: Computerization

In 1986, Milwaukee, Wisconsin became ground zero for the biggest leap in legislative management. Then City Clerk, Ron Leonhardt, found a small Chicago-based software solutions company, Daystar Computer Systems, and contracted them to create the first software system designed specifically to manage the legislative clerical process in local government.

The close collaboration of software firm’s technical expertise and the vast experience of the City of Milwaukee, created Legistar, the first and leading legislative management software solution, which is now the foundation to Granicus’ Legislative Management solution. It became the workhorse for most of the country’s major cities and counties, such as San Francisco City and County, L.A. County, New York City, Chicago, Miami, and many cities you may never have heard of. With Legistar, the physical retrieving of records became obsolete, redundant data entry became a distant pain of the past, and the notion of a paperless workflow became within reach.

Macro-Evolution #2: Internet Distribution

In 1996, the internet was finding solid footing and I became the first developer to work on Legistar who knew HTML. My job was unique: At the time, I was tasked almost exclusively with finding a way to convert the reports that Legistar generated into HTML so that they could be displayed on the internet. This was the next big leap: moving the distribution of information from paper to online.

It was at this point that I found my passion in open government. I realized then that open government was not about the Freedom of Information Act forcing government entities to provide public data to the public; open government is about that data being easily accessible so the public can find it on their own.

Macro-Evolution #3: Merging Minutes and Indexed Video

By 2006, online streaming video of public meetings was a reality that was catching serious steam. The idea of on-demand local government spread across the country. At this time, Legistar became integrated with Granicus’ streaming meeting video, video indexing, and meeting efficiency tools.

Now, not only is the public able to view full agendas, minutes, vote histories, legislative action histories, and supporting documents online, but they are able to click on an agenda item and see a video recording of the related part of the meeting.

From clay etchings to interactive meeting video, the job of the legislative clerk will never disappear, but those who hold the role today sure are looking like magicians compared to their historical counterparts.

Next Generation Legislative Management

As time keeps ticking, legislative management continues to evolve. We don’t know for sure what the next macro evolution will be, but in the mean time, the next generation of legislative management is upon us, and it is:

  • Automated

    We’re even automating multiple automations and constantly looking for ways to eliminate steps that clerks have to take. Time is money.

  • Paperless

    Paperless processes have achieved the 100% mark. But even implementing a 90% paperless solution is a hugely proud achievement, considering the massive amount of trees the US cuts down each year for local government meeting agendas alone.

  • Accessible

    The demand for accessible information is not only 24/7/365, but ease-of-use expectations must also be met. Mobile device access and powerful drop-in legislative research centers with tremendous search capabilities are required.

  • Cloud-based and Secure

    Use cloud technology for unlimited backups, data security, mobile access, and cost savings (no resources needed to manage upgrades, monitoring and retention).

The growth and development of legislative management is central to a successful and efficient open government. To learn more, check out this online presentation.

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