NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE
DECEMBER 1997

Table of Contents

  1. Michigan Legislative Info Now Online
  2. Government Documents and You
  3. Michigan Federal Documents Depository Libraries Web Directory
  4. Michigan 1997 Tax Forms Going Online


(1) Michigan Legislative Info Now Online

Michigan Legislative session information was made available to the public on the world wide web on September 19, 1997. Over 100,000 hits were recorded on this new site in its first three weeks, for a rate of 5,000 hits a day.

The new URL address for Michigan legislative information is http://michiganlegislature.org. Michigan libraries are encouraged to assist the public in making use of this significant new resource.

The primary purpose of the Michigan Legislature's public web site is to improve the participation of Michigan's citizens in their state government. The web site improves constitutents' access to their elected officials, and to the most current information about legislation being discussed in Lansing.

This public web site includes the text of introduced bills and joint resolutions, as well as the text of the final "as passed" version when it has been enacted by the House or Senate. The daily journals and calendars of the House and Senate, the text of enrolled bills and joint resolutions, and reports on bill status are also provided from a convenient menu page. The Bill Status section is searchable by bill number, by sponsor, or by subject category while Resolution Status files are searchable by resolution number and by the name of the sponsor.

Updates to the legislative internet files occur within an hour after documents are released for public distribution by a legislative office or agency. The Bill Status section is updated each evening to reflect actions taken during the previous session day.

The Michigan Legislature's Internet site is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The system does not have to be "down" in order for it to be updated. Occasionally, scheduled maintenance will be needed on the equipment, and at those times the system will be "down" for a brief period of time. A notice will be provided on the Main Page whenever the data is not available.

The new public internet site also includes an easy-to-use, online feedback mechanism for Michigan citizens to use. If the users have questions, suggestions for upgrading the site, or if they wish to pass along their questions or comments to their legislator, that can be done in a quick and easy online message.

The Legislature's web site is still a work in progress. In subsequent phases of the project, other legislative information such as committee notices and schedules, and nonpartisan bill and fiscal analyses will be offered. Additional legislatve information will be added in the months to come.

The new web site was developed by the Legislative Web Site Development Group, which will continue to monitor and enhance both the internal and the public internet web sites. The Web Site Development Group consists of ISD staff of the Senate and of the House, as well as Legislative Council staff from the Library of Michigan and the Legislative Service Bureau.

Documents and data for the Michigan Legislature's internet site originate with the Senate or House of Representatives, including their fiscal and legislative analysis staffs, and with the Legislative Service Bureau. Supporting services such as file and database management, as well as the linking and indexing of the documents, are performed on server hardware and software administered by the Library of Michigan. This new service will provide Michigan residents with the best quality access to current legislative data in a cross-linked, indexed, and searchable database custom written by Library of Michigan staff. This is a level of access seen in only a few web sites to date.

There is no subscription cost or fee associated with access to the legislative information located at this Web site. However, the user must have a computer with a modem and a phone line to access the Internet, or users can connect as a guest thru the Michigan Electronic Library (MEL). This Internet access provides a doorway into the Internet through which the user can navigate and obtain the legisalative information.

To access the Michigan Legislature web site:

Type the following URL (universal resource locator) address into the appropriate field in your Web browser: http://michiganlegislature.org. This site can be viewed using either Netscape 3.0 or newer, or Internet Explorer 3.0 or newer. These programs for viewing files can be downloaded free of charge by following links to the appropriate sites located at the bottom of the legislative web site's Main Page.

Many of the documents provided by this site are "PDF" files -- in portable document format. To view these documents, you will need to obtain Acrobat Reader software from Adobe, version 3.0 or higher. At the bottom of the legislative Web site's Main Page, you may follow the link to Adobe's web site and download this free plug-in software.

Individuals may find their Representative at the House web site (http://www.house.state.mi.us) or their Senator at the Senate web site (http://www.coast.net/~misenate/senhp.html) and determine if an E-mail address exists. Both of these sites may be easily accessed by following the appropriate links provided on the new Michigan Legislature web site. Additional information about Senate or House districts and about the members of the Legislature is available through these two related internet sites.

Individuals can determine their legislative district or the name of their Representative by using resources available at the House web site.

At the Senate Web Site, individuals may look up their Senator by last name; by district number; city, township, county; party; or committee membership. Direct links from these lists to individual Senators' home pages are also available.

Careful preparation and testing by the legislative team members have helped the new legislative public web page begin its public service smoothly. Initial reaction from users has been very positive, and the format has proven to be logical and easy to use. The level of use has been heavy in the first weeks with 1.5 gigabytes of information downloaded in the first 21 days. Volume is expected to grow as more people are made aware of the new web site. The legislative site has been linked directly to the Michigan Electronic Library web site, and to the Library of Michigan home page, so searchers can be quickly connected to this new source of information. If you have an questions about michiganlegisture.org, please email the Library of Michigan Help Desk at helpdesk@libofmich.lib.mi.us or call (517) 373-2549.

Source: Access, September-October, 1997, Vol. 15, No. 2, p.1, 4, 12.

Back to table of contents



(2) Government Documents and You

Editor's Note: The following article by Sharon Bradley appeared in her institution's newspaper and is shared as an example of local publicity.

Next time you enter the library look on the right side of the second automatic door. There is a white decal with a stylized red and blue eagle. This is the emblem of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The Cooley library is a part of this program. By virtue of being an accredited law school, Cooley was eligible to become a depository library and we did so in 1982. The authority for the FDLP is in Title 44, Chapter 19 of the United States Code (44 USC 1901 et seq.).

The FDLP was established by Congress and based on three principles: (1) government publications should be available for the free use of the public, (2) there should be depository libraries in every state and congressional district, and (3) every government publication should be available to depository libraries. Government publications are published by government entities like the Congress or administrative agencies. Because these publications are produced at taxpayer expense, we the tax payers are entitled to read these publications.

Access to government information is truly essential to the American way of life, which relies upon its citizens to make informed public decisions. The free flow of information between government and the public has been called "the mortar of our society." Citizen access to government information was seen as a way to ensure government accountability and informed citizen decision making. As James Madison wrote in 1822:

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

Depository libraries receive free publications "on deposit." In exchange we agree to allow public access to the publications. Cooley is a selective depository, we select only a small portion of the documents available, about 10%. We select those documents we believe to be most relevant to our patrons. The Library of Michigan, which is located six blocks west of the Cooley library on Kalamazoo, is a regional depository and receives all government publications and keeps them indefinitely.

You have used government documents and probably didn't even realize it. When doing legal research your goal is usually to find primary authority; the statutes, regulations, or court decisions dictating what people or corporations should or should not do. This primary authority is produced by government entities and is government information. The United States Code is a government publication, so is the Code of Federal Regulations and the United States Reports.

Interestingly the federal government does not publish a hardbound set of reporters that contain the decisions of the Circuit Courts of Appeal and the District Courts. The government does publish the slip opinions for these courts but West Publishing Co. publishes the "official" bound reporters, the Federal Reporter (now in its third series) and the Federal Supplement.

As part of Research and Writing or Advocacy, you learned how to find and use government documents like federal statutes and regulations. You may even have used legislative materials like Congressional committee reports or bills. As a Cooley student you have access to these materials in print or microfiche format or you may have used LEXIS or WESTLAW to track a bill through Congress on its way to becoming a law. You also have the advantage of an experienced reference staff to help you locate government reports and legislative information. But as you enter practice, LEXIS and WESTLAW cost money and you may not have the time to come in to the library. This is where electronic information products will come into play, particularly the Internet.

In light of the proliferation of computers and advancing telecommunications technologies, the government has shifted its attention to the electronic dissemination of information. As a matter of fact some publications are now available only in an electronic form. Most of the publications of the Health Care Financing Administration dealing with Medicare and Medicaid are good examples; these items are available only on CD-ROM. Many government agencys have Web sites that allow access to and downloading of publications. For example, the IRS site is well designed, you can download perfect copies of tax forms at http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/prod/cover.html).

Is the information found on the Internet reliable? Federal government information on the Internet usually is accurate. But it is best to verify any authority on which you intend to rely by checking the "official" print sources. This is not always possible particularly for the timeliest of information. The most common problem with on-line government information is the existence of different versions of documents. A copy of a presidential speech may be released before the speech is delivered. The speech as delivered may be slightly different and that version appears on the Internet. Different versions can exist because someone takes it upon themselves to correct typos or grammatical errors. The same thing could happen with court opinions. Spelling or citation errors may be corrected by the person adding the document to their site. To find the most reliable version of a document use the site of the issuing agency or court.

The sites listed here are three of my favorites for accessing government information and finding links to other sites. During the first session of the 104th Congress (1995), Congress directed that the Library of Congress make Federal legislative information available on the Internet. The result was THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov). THOMAS allows full text searching of bills, the Congressional Record, and the Constitution. It also contains bill summary and status information and legislative documents like hearing transcripts and committee reports. As the name indicates GPO Access (http://www.access.gpo.gov) was developed and is maintained by the Government Printing Office. There are lots of links to federal agency cites and a search engine called Pathway that allows searching by title or topic. The Federal Court Locator (http://www.law.vill.edu/Fed-Ct/fedcourt.html) is not a government maintained site but it brings together all of the official sites for the federal courts. While each site is organized differently, most allow searching by date, parties, and keywords. With the exception of the databases containing Supreme Court decisions, the court opinions are generally three or four years old. You will still need print sources and LEXIS and WESTLAW for comprehensive case law research. Internet legal research is most effective for current information.

I have listed some print resources that will help you find particular government information sites or learn to search for government information on the Internet. All of them are in the Reference collection which is on the wall behind the Reference Desk in the Strosacker Room.

Robinson, Judith Schiek. Tapping the Government Grapevine: The User-Friendly Guide to U.S. Government Information Sources, 2nd ed. Z1223 .Z9 R633 1993.

Sears, Jean L. and Marilyn K. Moody. Using Government Information Sources Print and Electronic, 2nd ed. Z1223 Z7 S4 1994.

Maxwell, Bruce. Washington Online: How to Access the Federal Government on the Internet. Z1223 .Z7 M25 1995.

Morehead, Joe. Introduction to United States Government Information Sources. Z1223 .Z7 M665 1996.

Source; Sharon Bradley, Reference Librarian for Technology Education, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, P.O. Box 13038, Lansing, MI 48901; telephone: (517) 371-5140 x625; fax: (517)334-5709; e-mail: bradleys@mlc.lib.mi.us

Back to table of contents



(3) Michigan Federal Documents Depository Libraries Web Directory

There is a new web directory of Michigan federal documents depository libraries at: http://www.libofmich.lib.mi.us/services/feddoclibs.html.

It is current with all the names, addresses, e-mails, and federal and state legislative district information that I have as of yesterday. Please help me keep this updated with the latest information, since it replaces our embarassingly out-of-date gopher pages.

Watch for a similar page for the state documents depository program. I hope to have it up in the next couple of weeks.

Source: Ann Marie Sanders, Depository Librarian, Library of Michigan, Collection Management Services, P.O. Box 30007, 717 W. Allegan St., Lansing, MI 48909; e-mail: asanders@libofmich.lib.mi.us; telephone: (517) 373-9489; fax: (517) 373-9438. GOVDOC-M, October 8, 1997.

Back to table of contents



(4) Michigan Department of Treasury Going Online in December

The Michigan Dept. of Treasury is planning to go online in December and will post all 1997 Michigan tax forms available via the WWW in January of 1998.

Ms. Mimi Van Door of the DOT reviewed plans for the web site at a workshop at the MLA conference and it looks to be a very comprehensive site with special emphasis on providing information librarians get asked about most:

Remember, the DOT encourages taxpayers to use the forms with the pre-printed labels that are mailed directly to their homes. This 1) saves considerable time and results in quicker refund checks and 2) saves the taxpayers thousands of dollars. That is the reason libraries receive their shipments about 2 weeks after the mailing to individuals. We can help tax filers and the DOT by encouraging patrons to use the pre-printed labels.

Mimi has set up a special hotline Just for Librarians to reorder forms or ask questions. This number is to her secretary -- It is Not for Taxpayers. It is a special effort on the part of her office to assist librarians on the front lines and an acknowledgement of the terrific job you do for the citizens of Michigan and the Dept. of Treasury. If we give it out to taxpayers,

  1. we'll never get through to request forms
  2. Mimi's secretary will head for Alaska and
  3. they'll have to disconnect the line.
For those of you interested in getting this number please e-mail me direct and I'll pass it along or ask a colleague who attended the workshop.

MEL-NEWS will announce the launch of the site as soon as the URL is available in December and we'll make sure there are prominent links to it throughout the MEL pages. We will, of course, maintain the 1996 tax forms file.

Source: Debbie Gallagher, Government Information Specialist, MEL - Michigan Electronic Library, 117D Hatcher North, Ann Arbor MI 48109-1205; e-mail: dgallag@umich.edu; phone: (313) 764-4000; fax: (313) 764-3916; Michlib-L, November 7, 1997.

Back to table of contents

Pointers
  • Back to RED TAPE Home Page
  • Back to Jon Harrison's Home Page
  • Back to MSU Libraries Home Page
  • Assistance Requested
    • Thanks for visiting the RED TAPE Home Page. Each issue is continuously updated and expanded during a three month cycle, so check back soon for the latest changes.

    • If you have any comments, notice any glaring inaccuracies, or would like to forward any relevant information concerning this Home Page, please send e-mail to: Jon Harrison

    Standard Disclaimers
    • MSU is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institution.

    Ownership Statement
    Jon Harrison : Page Editor
    Social Science Collections Supervisor
    Michigan State University Libraries
    100 Library
    E. Lansing, MI 48824-1048
    Voice mail: (517) 432-6123, ext. 123
    Fax: (517) 432-8050
    Last revised 02/27/04

    This page has been visited times since June 1, 1996.