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LAWS Preference List Help - 2017 Session

Contents

Establishing a Preference List Service Account

It is important to understand the creation of a Preference List is a 4-step process.

  • Step 1 - Create a Preference Account.
  • Step 2 - Sign-on to your Preference Account.
  • Step 3 - Create a Preference List(s).
  • Step 4 - Add bills to your 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 - RETURNING PREFERENCE ACCOUNT USERS... If you had a Preference Account for 2013 or 2015, you most likely already have access for 2017. Beginning with the 2013 session, we have kept preference accounts active for the subsequent sessions. So if you had an account in 2013 and/or 2013, you can skip creating a new account for 2017. Use the Account Login link and simply sign-on with the same USERNAME and PASSWORD from the previous session, and start adding lists for the current session! If you need a reminder of your account information** you can email the LAWS Webmaster at mailto://lawswebmaster@mt.gov

    (** - a current email address, matching that of the account when it was created, is required before any information can be disclosed)

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)).

Note: As stated on the Preference List Information page your browser must support JavaScript to use the LAWS system. Users of the Advanced Preference List Maintenance area of LAWS need a web browser that supports "frames" and a PC that will operate at a screen resolution of 800 x 600 or higher. See the terms of service for details. Depending on how current your browser might be, you might also have to add the laws.leg.mt.gov web domain as a trusted user to get the most from the functionality.

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Logging on to Your Account

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 Preference Account Maintenance page. If you have not yet created any preference lists, the page will display only your name, a button to Update the Account Owner's E-mail address, and a button 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.

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Creating a New Preference List

Creating a new Preference list requires only a few steps. From the Preference Account Maintenance page click on the "Create New Preference List" button. The Add Preference List page will appear. Enter a name for your preference list in the text box. If you plan to utilize the Committee Hearing Notification process, for your preference list, you will need to enter at least one valid email address for the list (be sure to include your own email address). Click on the "Save" 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.

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Adding Bills to a Preference 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 Preference Account Maintenance page, click on the name of the list, under the column named List Maintenance,to which you want to add bills, and the Update Preference List page will display.

The upper part of the "Update Preference List" page displays the current list name, and lets you manage the LIST itself. The two buttons in the area do the following. The "Save" button will save any change to 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 any bills and bill drafts already on the list).

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 list, before you add bills to the 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 list, 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, although much more powerful) 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 each list, or have since added an email address to your list. 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, a cancellation action being entered, or the hearing time, date or room number being modified.

If you have not provided at least one email address, the option to receive email notification of scheduled bill hearings is unavailable. NOTE that list email addresses are different than the "Account Owner" email address, if provided, when you created your account.

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 on the list.

The right-most column labeled "Notes", in the preference list maintence screen, has been available since 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.

See "Add/Edit Personal Notes" for further explanation.

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.

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Removing Bills from Your Preference List(s)

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 return to the list. Delete more bills if desired.

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Viewing Bills on Your Preference List(s)

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!

Here is another neat tip: After signing on to you account, use the Display Status link to go to the Display Status screen. Clicking the "Email this Page" link (assuming you have your email application open, will launch an email that will provide a link to the Display Status page for the list being viewed. Fill in the "To:" part of the email and send it off to the recipient. The recipient of the email can click the link provided in the email to view the Display Status screen of that list. They will not be required to logon, and you will not have to disclose your password. They can only view your list in the Display Status screen, and they will be able to view any "Notes" you might have added to the bills on your list. The recipient can use their browser's bookmark or favorites function to bookmark that page and can return to it at anytime to view any changes to the list, including newly added bills, and up-to-date status.

Here is an even better tip: Using the tip above, send and email to yourself. After receiving the email click the link then use your brower's "bookmark" or "favorite" function to bookmark the page. When you click the bookmark you can see the most current status of each bill on your list with a single click, and without having to logon. NOTE: You will still have to logon when you want to maintain your list, by going to the logon link on the Look Up Bill Information page.

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Receiving Hearing Notifications

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 any of your Preference List(s). To do so, you must indicate that fact for each bill on your list 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 at least one valid e-mail address when you created your Preference List. If not, the words "No E-mail Address" will display in the "Notify of Hearing" column. Instructions to add or change your e-mail address(es) on your list 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 for each event per bill (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.

IMPORTANT: If you sign up for email notifications for committee hearings, it is up to you, the user, to allow your email service to accept emails from LAWSWEBMASTER@MT.GOV. The laws webmaster can not, and will not reply to automatic responses, fill out questionaires, or ask to be added to your approved list of senders. The notification process is a free service. It is up to the user to allow the notices to be delivered.

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 Defaulting the "Notify of Hearing" Flag

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 (for this list)" 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.

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Add/Edit Preference List Bill Notes

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.

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Add/Change Your Account Owner E-mail Address

From the Preference Account Maintenance page click the Update Acct Owner E-mail button. The Update Account E-mail Address page will display. Modify the email address and click the Save button. You will be returned to the Preference Account Maintenance page and your email address will have been updated to reflect the changes you made.

NOTE: Each account can only have one email address assigned. The is considered the account owner. Any communication with the webmaster regarding the account information can only be responded to when it comes from the account owner's email address.

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Add/Change Your Preference List E-mail Address(es)

Using Method 1: From the Preference Account Maintenance page click on the list name under the List Maintenance column, for which you want to modify the email address(es). 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 (for this list)", and the current E-mail address(es) you created that list (assuming you entered at least one address when the list was created). Click the "Update E-mail(for this list)" button to display the Update List E-mail Addresses page. After adding or changing E-mail address, click the "Save" button. The page will update, and you should see the words: "List Updated!" The email addresses assigned to that list will display. Click on the "Update Preference List" link to return to the Update Preference List page.

NOTE: If you did not provide at least one e-mail address when you created the preference list, the Update Preference List page will display "No E-mail Address on Record" next to the Update E-mail (for this list) button, and "No E-mail Address" in the "Notify of Hearing" column of any bills on the list. You can not receive hearing notifications without at least one E-mail address.

IMPORTANT: If you sign up for email notifications for committee hearings, it is up to you, the user, to allow your email service to accept emails from LAWSWEBMASTER@MT.GOV. The laws webmaster can not, and will not reply to automatic responses, fill out questionaires, or ask to be added to your approved list of senders. This is a free service, so it is up to the user to allow the notices to be delivered.

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Logging Off of your Account

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 account 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.

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Last Modified:
1/11/2017 9:34:14 AM