Navigating Politics (How To Use RTS)

Do you want your voice to be heard? Do you want to register an opinion for Arizona legislators to consider when voting on a bill.  Do you want to be your own activist and track bills on topics that matter to you? 

What is the most powerful tool available to make an impact at the state’s legislature almost without leaving the comfort of your home? The answer is simple, RTS, Request To Speak. Although Request To Speak sounds intimidating, it’s really simple and there are many other things you can do with the system that does not consist of actually having to speak.

Lawmakers always look at the opinions expressed in the RTS system.  Many legislators when in committee or when on the floor deliberating a bill will state; “There are numerous people and organizations signed in opposed to this bill, therefore my vote is no.” 

So, what is Request To Speak? The Request To Speak system allows the public to register an opinion on bills listed on agendas and to request to speak on a bill in a committee. RTS replaces the traditional paper slips formerly used to sign in and let the committee chairperson know you want to speak to the committee. Under the departed paper procedure, you could only sign in to speak or register an opinion if you were physically at the capitol. 

Now you can do all that and more from home, once you get past setting it up.

  • Track bills
  • View a list of your positions on bills
  • Update or modify your positions on a bill
  • Register a position without making a request to speak
  • Find impending Agendas

The initial step is signing up for an RTS account. This can only take place in the state capitol. If you establish an account at home, you will only be able to manage the Bill Status Inquiry application to track movement on a bill, not reflect an opinion or construct a request to speak until you come to the capitol and sign in on one of the Kiosks. The Kiosks’ location is in the House of Representatives. You must pass a security checkpoint to enter the building. Once there, use your email and pick a password that’s easy to remember. This is literally the hardest step because it requires you to leave the house and get to the capitol.

Occasionally nonprofits like Arizona NORML will do the toughest part for you and will have sign up days. They will go down and sign up people at the capitol. They will give you a generic password you’ll need to change later. For more information about the legislative session from ARIZONA NORML.

Getting To Know RTS

Signing Into RTS

After you verify your account at the kiosk at the state capitol, go home and sign in via azleg.gov.

On the main page, under the Legislative Information tab,
(second from the far right)
you can find two important sources.

Choose the first option under the Legislative Information tab,
Request To Speak, from there you will be able to sign into your RTS account.

You can do this by using the Sign On icon in the top-right corner of the page.

Remember, password might need changing.

Starting a list

Next, let’s start a list to help you follow bills. To accomplish this; click the big blue option on the right, Bill Status Inquiry.

Second, from the bottom, is the Personal Progress tab.

This is where you find bill alerts for amendments and committees. This is also where you enter your particular list of topics to track.

Located at the bottom is the New List Name prompt, type “cannabis” and click Add List.

Hunting Bills

Now that you have your account and list ready, you need bills to follow. Sometimes you might already have the bill number (if that is the case, skip to Understanding The Bill Status Inquiry).

However, if you don’t know the bill number,
go back to the main page.
By clicking Bill Status Inquiry.
Then click AZLeg.website.

When back on the main page,
go back to the Legislative Information tab.
Chose the second option,
Full Text Search.

This is the page where you can hunt for topics most important to you.
The site should already preset the best preferences for your research.
Type in “marijuana” in the Search Phrase prompt.
Click Perform Search.

(As the legislation session continues, this is the best way to find, “strike all and amend everything bills”, known as strikers.)

As you can see, the only information shown is Document links, Phrase Hit Count, Last Modified date and the Description, which is just the bill number.

Grab a notebook and a pen to write down bill numbers. Make sure you include the bill number, the short title and your opinion about the bill. You will need this later.

When there is a high phrase count, it’s safe to assume the bill relates to cannabis.
However, just because the phrase count is low, don’t neglect to check the bill’s document and skim it to see if you wish to add it to your list. To do this, click on any of the links under Documents or Highlighted Document.

How to read a proposed statute:
It’s a rainbow when attempting to understand legislation. What do all these colors mean? Well, the two most important ones are red with strike-through and blue. The red with strike-through is the language that is a law already that the suggested measure might change, and the blue text is what the law might change to.

In all honesty, you can skip this step if you follow The Kush Kronicles weekly updates. However, if you want to track bills that aren’t being followed here, this is how you do it. It can become confusing because there might be duplicates because of multiple documents and summaries being added all the time. 

Understanding The Bill Status Inquiry Page

Once you are armed with your list of bills and topics that matter the most to you,
it’s time for the Bill Status Inquiry page.

This page is a website all within itself.
There are five tabs to the Bill Status Inquiry page alone.

Those five tabs are;

  • Overview
  • Bill Status
  • Videos
  • Sponsor/ Keywords/ Sections
  • RTS Current Bill Positions
  • Documents

If you are still on the full-text search page, in the top-right corner is where the Bill # Search prompt can be located and can be found in the same area on many of the azleg.gov sites pages.

Type in your bill number.

Make sure you include;

  • HB- stands for House of Representatives Bill
  • HCR- stands for House Concurrent Resolution
  • SB- stands for Senate Bill
  • SCR-stands for Senate Concurrent Resolution

Adding Bills To List

You can add the bill to your list from the main Overview tab.
At the bottom area, simply click Select A List and choose a category.
Then click Send To List.

You can also add personal notes to help you follow, track and decide. 

Overview

The Overview tab automatically pops up when you search for a bill. 

This tab is just what the title suggests. It’s an overview of the bill’s Assigned Date, the Committee it’s being heard in, the Report Date, the Action of the committee, and the Vote of the committee.

Bill Status

The Bill Status tab breaks down the information on the Overview tab. It’s a more in-depth look at how the bill is progressing. There are two parts. One shows how the House of Representatives voted and the other how the State Senate votes.

Note, if a bill launches in the House of Representatives, meaning it starts with HB or HCR, it will cross over to the Senate. Likewise, if the bill is an SB or SCR starts in the Senate, it will crisscross over as well.

Lobbyists and lawmakers know this as Cross Over week. When a committee has not a heard a bill by this point, it’s dead in this form. It could always come back as an amendment.

Videos

One would think that the Video tab would comprise all the videos regarding a bill. However, that would be too easy.
When a bill is on the calendar, it becomes added to an agenda. There will be a link to watch the live stream here.

Sponsors/ Keywords/ Sections

As the picture shows, this tab is really all that.

  • The prime sponsor/ lawmaker/ legislator behind the bill.
  • The keywords about the bill.
  • The sections of Arizona Revised Statutes affected by the possible change of law.

RTS Current Bill

This is one of the more interesting tabs. This tab allows you to view individuals, associations, and nonprofits’ opinions/ positions on the bill.

There are three options;

  • For- meaning it’s a good idea and would like it to move forward
  • Neutral – meaning, neither for it nor against it,
  • Against- meaning it’s a bad idea and do not want it to move on

Legislators are always looking at the amount of support a bill has.

By the end of this article, you will do this for yourself and your position on proposed legislation.

Documents

Every time an agenda has a bill added, and every time there is a status facts sheet, or an amendment, this is the place to find it.

You can find:

  • Bill Summary- a summary of the bill that is presented to legislators.
  • Full text- self explanatory
  • Amendments- changes to the proposed law
  • Calendar- past schedule for hearings and committees for the bill
  • Agenda- upcoming committee and hearing info

This tab shows how a bill starts, is hardly how a bill finishes, if it does. Sometimes it’s an entirely different bill.

(Remember)
The red with strike-through is the language that is a law already that the suggested measure might change, and the blue text is what the law might change to.

Entering An Opinion/ Position On RTS

This is probably the most influential way you can persuade Arizona State legislators, besides actually speaking.

When signed from the azleg.gov main page,
click the Legislative Information tab,
and pick the first option Request To Speak.

Then on the left-hand side, choose My Bill Positions.
This updates your current/final disposition on a bill as it moves thru the legislative process.

Next, grab your list again. Enter in the bill number in the space provided. Then enter Your position on the bill, then click add.

You have three options:

  • Green thumbs up/For- meaning it’s a go, it’s a good idea and would like it to move forward
  • Yellow head dude/Neutral – meaning, neither for it nor against it,
  • Red thumbs down/Against – meaning stop, it’s a bad idea and do not want it to move on

There is no reason to fear the legislation process. Although the site may appear intimidating, it’s simply because there is a volume of data on it. We merely touched on the basics, however, light one up and fish around on it. You may discover it’s not as dreadful as you assume.

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