It is important to understand that the creation of a Preference List is a 2-step process. Step 1 - Create a Preference List Account. Step 2 - Create the Preference List(s).
If you have not already setup an account, and created a user name and password, you should do so. Go to the Preference List Information Page to learn how to setup your account.
Note:Preference accounts must be recreated each session. Since bill numbers and bill draft numbers are reused each session, maintaining preference lists from one session to another would be meaningless.
With your Preference List account information (user name and password) in hand you are ready to use your account (i.e., create the list(s)).
The Preference List portion of LAWS is a group of web pages that are not available to non-Preference List users. Once your account is created, you can get to the preference list pages from the LAWS system by selecting the Preference List Login link from the Lookup Bill Information Page.
When you first click on the link you will get a logon box. Enter your User Name and Password then click OK. Your browser will display the main Preference List page. If you have not yet created any preference lists, the page will display only your name, and a link to Create a New Preference List.
You need to logon only once while you are using the Preference List related pages. However, there is a timeout function that will require you to logon again if you do not actively use the system.
Creating a new Preference list requires only a few steps. From the main Preference Lists page click on the "Create a new Preference List" link. The Add Preference List page will appear. Enter a name for your preference list in the text box. Click on the "Insert" button. The page will update, and you should see the word: "Success!" Congratulations! You have now created a preference list. Click on the "Return to Preference Lists" link, then read below to learn how to add bills to your list.
Once you have created a Preference List you can add bills to it at any time. There are two methods of adding bills to a preference list. Use the method that best meets your needs.
Method One: Adding Bills the simple way. Note: You must know the bill type and number, or bill draft number of a bill before you can add it to a Preference List using the simple method. If you want to use this method and you do not already know the bill numbers, you can open a second web browser window, and search, using the LAWS system, to locate bill numbers. Keep one browser window open to your preference list so you can add to the list, and use the other browser window to find bills.
From the main Preference Lists page, click on the name of the list, under the List Maintenance column to which you want to add bills, and the Update Preference List page will display.
The upper part of this web page displays the current list name, and lets you manage the LIST itself. The three buttons in the area do the following. The "Update" button will change the name of the list (you must have changed the list name in the box above the buttons for this to work). The "Delete" button will delete the entire list (including and bills or bill drafts already on the list). The "Reset" button will clear the preference list name box so you can type a new name for the list; then be sure to click on the "Update" button.
Most users will rarely use the upper part of this page.
The lower portion of this page lets you add bills to, and remove bills from, the current list. Before jumping in and adding bills, take a minute and read below to see how this operates:
Assuming you provided an email address when you created your account, before you add bills to a list it will look like the image shown above with the label "No Records returned". If you did not provide an email address when you created your account, it will look slightly different. This will be explained as we go along.
Now, let's look at the different elements in this area of the page. First, there is a link to "Advanced Preference List Maintenance". That link takes you to the other (less-simple) way of adding bills to a list (Method Two). That method is discussed in detail in a separate Advanced Preference List Help document.
As stated above, you must know the bill type and number, or bill draft number to add a bill with the simple method. Introduced bills are identified in the Montana Legislature with both a bill type and bill number. The six types are: HB = House Bill; HJ = House Joint Resolution; HR = House Resolution; SB = Senate Bill; SJ = Senate Joint Resolution; SR = Senate Resolution. To add a bill, select the type from the drop-down list, then type the number in the box on the screen. This example would add House Bill 1 to the list.
The bill will be added to the list when you click on the "Add Single Bill" button. Once you do that, you will see the bill on the page as in the example below:
Bill drafts (unintroduced legislation) are identified only by number (they all have the "LC" prefix in the Montana Legislature). You add a bill draft in a manner similar to a bill, but you must use the right-side number box and the "Add Single Draft" button.
Had you done this, your list would then look something like this:
You can continue adding bills or bill drafts to the list at any time. Note that if you add a bill draft, when it is introduced (assigned a bill number) it will remain on your list and need not be added again. The LC number is associated with the bill throughout the legislative session.
You may have noticed the "Delete" links in the cell to the right of the Short Title of each bill row in your list. Click on a "Delete" link to remove that bill from the list.
NOTE:The following assumes you have provided an email address when you created your account, or have since added an email address to your account. You may also have noticed the "No" links in the column labeled "Notify of Hearing." Clicking on a "No" link will change the link to "Yes." Conversely, clicking on a "Yes" link will change the link to "No." You will be sent E-mail notifications for any bills on your list(s) with a "Notify of Hearing" flag of "Yes" as long as the bill was on your list AND the "Notify of Hearing" flag was set to "Yes" PRIOR to the hearing action being entered, the cancellation action being entered, or the hearing time, date or room number being modified.
If you have not provided an email address, the option to receive email notification of scheduled bill hearings is unavailable.
Beginning in 2007 a "default" toggle was added to allow users to default their choice of receiving email notifications for scheduled bill hearings. It is located just below the "Update E-mail Address" button. This popular feature is still available.
By setting this toggle to either Yes or No, any bills added to your preference list, from that point forward, will have the Notify of Hearing flag set to match the toggle. It will only affect bills added to your list after being set and will not change current Notify of Hearing settings on the bills on your list prior to setting the toggle. Also, this toggle will not prevent you from manually resetting the Notify of Hearing flag from individual bills by using the toggle in the Notify of Hearing column itself. You will not see this option unless you have provided an email address.
The right-most column labeled "Notes", in the preference list maintence screen, is new for 2011. When a bill or bill draft number is added to your list, the Notes column for that row will display as a link labeled "Add." Clicking the "Add" link will display a window where you can enter an individual note, of up to 80 characters for that bill or draft. Once a note has been added the "Note" column for that row it will display the link labeled as "Edit." Clicking the Edit link, will again open a window where you can edit the note as needed. To delete an existing note, simply remove the text from the Edit window and save. Understand that notes added to the bills or drafts on your list are only for your knowledge. The "Notes" are not comments to the legislature. They are notes for you, or anyone with whom you might share your list. The notes will be displayed, in text format, as part of the Display Status screen for each list.
Users of Preference List "NOTES" should also understand this information is stored on a public server, paid for and maintained with public funds, and therefore may be subject to disclosure upon request.
Method Two: Now that you understand the simple method of adding and removing bills, you can delve into the less simple, but far more powerful way to manage your list(s); Advanced Preference List Maintenance. The Advanced method uses web browser "frames" technology. Most browsers support this technology, although some (especially older ones) may not.
You have two ways to get to Advanced Maintenance. You can select the list name under the Advanced Maintenance column of the Preference List page, similar to this example:
By clicking on the name of a list under the Advanced Maintenance column, it will display the Advanced Maintenance page for that list. In the Advanced Maintenance page, you can change to other lists you have created without leaving the Advanced Maintenance page, so you should be aware of which list is being updated.
Or, after going into the Simple Maintenance page (Method One), you can select the "Advanced Preference List Maintenance" link from the Update Preference List page. Which ever list you selected to enter the Simple Maintence page, will be the same list when you enter the Advanced List Maintenance page using this method.
The Advanced Preference List Maintenance web page is powerful, and to use it properly you must understand how it works. It's worth the effort to learn how to use it if you maintain more than a few bills in your list(s). There is a separate Advanced Preference List Help document that thoroughly explains usage of Advanced Preference List Maintenance.
Once you have created a list and added bills to it you have done all the work, and you're now ready for the payoff!
From the main Preference Lists page, and on the Update Preference List page there are links labeled "Display Status" immediately to the right of the list name(s). Select the link, and the Bill Search Results page will display with the current status of all of the bills on your list. Introduced bills, if any, are on the top section of the page, and unintroduced bills, if any, are on the lower section. You can click on a bill or bill draft number to get the Detailed Bill Information.
Here's a neat tip: When viewing the Bill Search Results page (where your entire list of bills is displayed) you can use your browser's "bookmark" or "favorites" function to bookmark the page. Then, any time you want to view your list you can go directly to it from your bookmark, although you will be prompted to logon if you have not yet done so!
Method 1: If you want to remove a bill(s) from a list you can quite easily. From the main Preference Lists page click on the name of the list you wish to remove bills from. The Update Preference List page will display. From the table that shows the Bills Currently in the List, click on the "Delete" link for the bill you want to remove. The Maintain Preference List page appears with the bill you selected for deletion displayed. If you are certain this is the bill you want to remove, click on the "Delete" button. You will receive confirmation of the delete: "Success!" Use the "Return to the Preference List" link to delete more bills if desired.
The Preference List functionality of LAWS allows you to log off of your account without having to close your browser. Previously, closing your browser was the only way to log off your preference account. Now, users can log off their accounts and know that their lists are secure. Additionally, users with multiple accounts can log off one account and log onto another account easily without closing and re-opening their browser.
When preference list users log onto their account, a "Log Off Pref Acct" link will display in the header portion of each LAWS page while you are logged on. Clicking this link will automatically log you off (of your preference list only), and display a confirmation page. The confirmation page includes a link for you to return to the LAWS Session Information page. You can then continue using LAWS in the usual manner.
As a preference account owner, you can choose to receive notification, via e-mail, of scheduled committee hearings, cancellations, and time, date, and room changes for bills on your Preference List(s). To do so, you must indicate that fact for each bill for which you want to be notified. You will only be notified for those bills you choose.
Method 1: From the main Preference Lists page click on the name of the list, under the List Maintenance column, containing the bills and bill drafts for which you wish to be notified of scheduled hearings. The Update Preference List page will display. From the table showing the Bills Currently in the List, click on the "No" link, under the "Notify of Hearing" column, for the bill(s) you want to be notified. The link will change to "Yes." Conversely, clicking a "Yes" link will toggle it back to "No."
These instructions assume that you provided an e-mail address when you created your Preference List Account. If not, "No E-mail Address" will display in the "Notify of Hearing" column. Instructions to add or change your e-mail address(es) can be found here.
Notifications will be sent only for scheduled hearings, hearing cancellations and/or changes for those items having future dates of NO MORE THAN 7 days from the current date. For example, if today is the 10th and a hearing action is entered for the 18th, notifications will not be sent for that hearing until the evening of the 11th -- seven days prior to the scheduled hearing. If today is the 10th and a hearing action is entered that day for the 14th, notifications will be sent that evening -- the first evening within seven days of the scheduled hearing.
Notifications are sent once per bill per event (i.e., scheduled hearing, hearing cancellation, hearing change). For example, if today is the 10th and a hearing action is entered for a hearing scheduled for the 15th, notifications will be sent that evening to those who have that bill on their Preference List(s) with E-mail notification turned on (set to 'Yes'). If you did not have e-mail notification turned on when the notification was sent, but later add e-mail notification (say on the 11th) you WILL NOT receive a notification for the already scheduled hearing because the notification was sent out on the evening of the 10th (the action was added prior to when you turned on notification). If after adding e-mail notification (on the 11th) the hearing is cancelled on the 12th, you WILL receive notification of the cancellation because you turned on notification prior to the cancellation action being added.
A "default" toggle is available to allow users to default their choice of receiving email notifications. It is located just below the "Update E-mail Address" button, and looks like this:
By setting this toggle to either Yes or No, any bills added to your preference list, from that point forward, will have the Notify of Hearing flag set to match the toggle. It will only affect bills added to your list after being set and will not change any current Notify of Hearing settings. Also, this toggle will not prevent you from manually resetting the Notify of Hearing flag for individual bills by using the toggle in the Notify of Hearing column itself. Remember, you will not see this option unless you have provided an email address.
Using Method 1: From the main Preference Lists page click on any list name under the List Maintenance column. The Update Preference List page will display. Just above the table showing the Bills Currently in the List (assuming there are bills on your list) is a button labeled "Update E-mail Address", and the current E-mail address you entered when your account was created. Click the "Update E-mail Address" button to display the Update E-mail Address page. After adding or changing your E-mail address, click the "Update" button. The page will update, and you should see the words: "E-mail Address Updated!" Congratulations! You have successfully updated your E-mail address. Click on the "Update Preference List" link to return to the Update Preference List page.
NOTE: The "Update E-mail Address" button and your current E-mail address will only display on lists that contain at least one bill or bill draft. Also, if you did not provide an e-mail address when you created your Preference List account, the Update Preference List page will display "No E-mail Address on Record" next to the Update E-mail Address button, and "No E-mail Address" in the "Notify of Hearing" column. You can not receive hearing notifications without an E-mail address.
Beginning in 2011, a Preference List user has the ability to add individual notes to each bill, or bill draft, on their Prefenece List(s). These notes can be maintained from either the Simple Maintenance screen (Method 1), or the Advanced Maintenance screen (Method 2).
When you add a new bill or draft number to your list you will see a link named "Add" under the "Notes" column for that bill. Clicking the "Add" link will allow you to add a note, of up to 80 characters, to that bill or draft. Once a note is added for that bill or draft on that list, the link will display as "Edit." Clicking the "Edit" link will allow you to edit an existing note.
When you view the Display Status screen for the Preference List, you will see the notes as part of the display.
Users of Preference List "NOTES" should understand this information is stored on a public server, paid for and maintained with public funds, and therefore may be subject to disclosure upon request.
NOTE: The window used to Add and Edit notes is a scripted window. Most browsers, especially newer versions, will block scripted windows for security reasons. To allow the scripted window to appear, simply include the LAWS site as a Trusted Site in your browser. For those using MS Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options. On the Security tab, select the Trusted sites zone, and click the Sites button. On the Trusted sites window, the LAWS URL should appear in the "Add this website to the zone:" text box. If not, type "http://laws.leg.mt.gov" in the Add box. Then, click the Add button. Users of other browsers will need to refer to the documentation for their specific application.
In addition, some users may have third-party pop-up blockers installed. Users of these applications will need to refer to the documentation for their specific software to determine how to allow the pop-ups for LAWS.
Make sure any changes you make to your computer settings allow pop-ups and scripted windows to function ONLY for the LAWS website to prevent any problems with security issues.