PHOENIX - Want to monitor the Legislature in your pajamas?
You can. And all it takes is a computer - or a decent tablet or smartphone - and a link to the Internet.
It starts at the main legislative Web page, www.azleg.gov
The menu along the top includes separate links for the floor of Senate and House of Representatives, and the nine hearing rooms they use, which requires figuring out where you want to be.
So, back to the main Web page.
Under the "committee" link are the names of all the committees. And within those are the upcoming agendas of what bills will be heard on specified days.
Of course, all that presumes you know the issues you want to track in the first place.
The list of issues can be found under the "bills" button. There you can search for a measure by bill number or, if you don't know that, by keywords.
So, if you're interested in environmental issues, you can input the word "pollution," and find all bills with those words.
The full text of bills and amendments also is available, both in the html format - readable by most Web browsers - as well as Adobe PDF format. The latter version is easier to understand, as it clearly shows which existing language in statutes is being struck and what is being added.
Sponsors also are listed for each bill.
The first name listed is the person who is considered the main sponsor, though other lawmakers can sign on as "prime" sponsors and are designated as such with a "P" behind their name. Co-sponsors are marked with a "C."
Be alert, though: It's not uncommon for lawmakers to change the entire contents of a bill in a committee with a "strike everything" amendment. So a bill number that originally addressed drunken driving could easily turn into one on visitation rights by grandparents.
Want to add your voice to the debate?
Each lawmaker's website has an email link. And many of them actually monitor their incoming messages during the hearings and floor sessions, meaning an emailed query could end up provoking a discussion.
In fact, you can actually provide input at a committee hearing without even bothering to show up at the Capitol. The system allows you to sign up to "speak" at a committee hearing on any bill on the agenda, entering comments that are made available to the committee chair and members during the actual meeting.
For less-immediate responses, the legislative websites list individual phone numbers. But a better alternative to a long-distance call for those outside the Phoenix area is using the state's toll-free number of (800) 352-8404.
Don't know who represents you? No problem: The site has a link that allows you to type in your address and ZIP code to get a map showing your legislative district.
Hint: Make sure when you get the map you check the box marked "roads" so you can really find your house.