Nov. 12, 2020 – In this recording, Alaska Press Club members heard from Legislative Librarian Jennifer Fletcher on how to fine-tune research and navigate the legislature’s website as #akleg season approaches.
Fletcher provided some tips to reporters on streamlining questions and ways the Legislative Library can assist with research.
“We treat all requests as confidential, so if we do get the same question from multiple reporters, we give an individualized answer to each,’ Fletcher said during the presentation. “Obviously, since the information we’re sharing is public, we will give pretty much the same answer to multiple people asking the same question, but it can be pretty important to note that the question you ask will determine the answer you receive.”
“Let’s go ahead and take, for example, a current eviction moratorium issue — we get a general question from someone in the public asking whether or not they can be evicted,” Fletcher continued. “They may go ahead and ask, ‘Could you give me some information on the landlord tenant act, or a specific section thereof’ — which is a much more broad question than evictions specifically, and consequently will get an answer related to the landlord tenant act in general.”
Fletcher encouraged reporters to talk through their reporting project with the librarians. Librarians may be able to help guide the research that needs to be completed to get to the information that is most appropriate for the issue being covered.
From bill sponsorship to information about senate leadership and past voting records, the Alaska State Legislature’s website can provide what seems like endless information to working reporters. Although, if you think there is an easier way to do something on the state legislature’s website as well as Basis, a comprehensive look at nearly-everything Alaska law related, Fletcher says you’re probably right. When researching, it can be easy to be led astray if you don’t know the territory. She says the legislative library is there to help — just as long as you aren’t 15 minutes out from your deadline — since it can take days to get a response.
Fletcher says the Bills & Laws tab on the website holds information including governor’s vetoes, executive orders, past legislatures and even documents relating to the Alaska constitutional convention. Users can access statutes through Bills & Laws > Laws > Statutes, which will take you to the current online version of any Alaska statute.
Basis is mostly populated from 1993 to present, so if your research involves older information, Fletcher recommends you contact the library directly.
Reporters can also sign up for alerts, either by text or email, to receive up to date information regarding bills. They can also find information on said bill based off of content through the Subject List.
The Committees tab on the website provides information regarding special, joint and finance subcommittees.
“You can use this page to gather and look at all the bills that relate to something specifically,” Fletcher said. “For example, we’ll look at highways — this will list all of the bills that have that subject tabbed… these are very useful if you are trying to keep track of certain topics during a legislative session.”
For a more in-depth look at the legislature’s website, watch the Zoom session presented by Alaska Press Club in partnership with Alaska Center for Excellence in Journalism with support from Atwood Foundation and Knight Foundation in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation.
The Legislative Reference Library is located in the Terry Miller Building, Room 102 in Juneau, Alaska. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Missed Jennifer’s session? You can watch the full video here.
The next session in our series will be on State Budget Basics with Tim Bradner and Larry Persily, Dec. 11 from 9-10 a.m.