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Major improvements to legislative website

Jan 31, 2014


By Jeb Bladine
Of the News-Register


All WhatchamaColumns

State officials have taken a well-deserved shellacking for over-reaching with the Cover Oregon health care website. Too often, it seems, public sector computer and communications projects involve disastrous blind spots leading to system failures and huge financial losses.

On another front, however, public policy wonks are back in business with access to the latest information on Oregon laws.

In January, the Oregon Department of Justice quietly completed its long-awaited update of Oregon Revised Statutes for new print and online publications. And building on 2013 work, the Oregon Legislative Information System has a content- and feature-rich website providing quick access to every aspect of state lawmaking.

Oregonians seemingly paid scant attention to the long delay between updates of the ORS, which spanned multiple regular and special sessions of the Legislature. There was frustration in the media, since we’ve become dependent on instant access to accurate information on the laws wending through so many of our stories and commentaries.

You can buy the 21-book set of Oregon statutes for $615, a bargain considering that individual volumes cost $85. However, print sales have dropped ever since the statutes became available online, searchable and easy to reproduce.

Playing catch-up continues at the Department of Justice, as normal deadlines passed long ago for updating the department’s valuable Public Records and Meetings Manual. Now, at least, government officials and the media can obtain updated versions of state laws affecting records and meetings.

Back to the Legislature’s new website, — www.oregonlegislature.gov. It’s worth a look even if you have only limited interest in Oregon’s lawmaking system.

The website has a clean, alluring design that draws eyes quickly to its primary resources. Anyone who has ever followed the progress of a bill before the Legislature will instantly appreciate the compilation of all information related to each bill on compact search pages. Quick links to key information replace what formerly required frustrating, time-consuming research.

For some reason, the state of Oregon’s primary website has taken on a pedestrian, text-dominant look these days. Not so the new legislative site, which features simple yet bold graphics contributing to rather than detracting from the mission of providing user-friendly access.

There’s a prominent link for suggestions to improve the site. I may have something to offer over time, but for now, there’s only praise and gratitude for efforts that created this new state information resource.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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