I’m pleased to report that the 2005/2006 Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records are now available on the UW Law Library Web site. Records from previous sessions back to 1999/2000 are also available.
The 2005/2006 records have actually been up for a few weeks, but Google has only just indexed them, thus enabling our search engine.
You may know that drafting records from the 1999-2005 sessions are also available from the Wisconsin Legislature. In doing some comparative searching, however, I found some significant differences. Terms which produced results in our search engine did not produce results in the Legislature’s search engine. So I asked them why.
Here’s what Lauren Jackson, Legislative Analyst at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau told me:
I have been working with LTSB (Legislative Technology Services Bureau) in creating the online instructions to finding information on that site. We understand your concerns about the site not being “word searchable”, and we hope the following explanation helps.
The drafting file site is meant to be used in conjunction with the NXT Searchable Infobases provided on the main legislative Web page. The public can use this site to search legislative bills, resolutions, acts, statutes, etc. back to the 1995 legislative session. This site is word searchable and has several subject indexes, as well as an author index to legislation.
Once you have determined on the NXT site what act or bill you want to research further, you would then go to the drafting file web site, and using the search instructions we have provided, find and examine the drafting file. For example, if you have determined that you are seeking the drafting file for 2005 Wisconsin Act 100, you would click on “2005-06” folder, and once there, you can use the search bar to search for “Act 100” or you can follow the steps of opening the “Wisconsin Acts” folder, then scrolling down to 2005 Act 100 and opening that file.
While we understand that this may not be the most user-friendly configuration of the site, there are reasons for this… One of the LRB’s main concerns is to make sure that the public is finding the right documents when searching for legislative history. This involves first finding the statute you are concerned about, the specific language in that statute you are interested in, then finding the correct session law (act) which created that language, and finally examining the drafting file for that act. Making the drafting file site word searchable is not necessarily helpful to this methodic process, and can, in fact, make things more confusing at times…
When we host the Drafting Records on our site, they are being organized based on their attributes (special field indexes), mainly the actual bill number, or amendment etc. and displayed right from our Document management system. Unfortunately that system has never supported word searching internally, and the licensure costs to add that utility for web browsing was extremely prohibitive.