Research and Information Services

LSO Research and information Services staff members provide general research and information services to the Legislature. These staff are responsible for conducting general research and policy analysis for legislators and responding to information requests from legislators, the public, and other states. This section also provides research services using the Legislature’s geographic information system (GIS). Staff are also tasked with the management and dissemination of information resources to legislators, legislative staff, the media, and the public. This section also coordinates legislator education and outreach, media education and outreach, and civic education and outreach to promote understanding of the legislative process. The section is also responsible for assisting the Legislature with institutional development issues, including the efficient and effective management of the legislative process and operations.

General Research and Information Requests

In 2003, the Legislature created an additional research capacity within the Legislative Service Office by authorizing two general research positions. Research staff provide non-partisan and independent analysis for committees and individual legislators. We provide policy analysis on a wide variety of subject matters, prepare general research products for committees and individual legislators, and gather and summarize information from other states and executive branch agencies. In addition, the research staff may respond to requests that originate from other staff sections within the LSO. Research staff can provide a variety quantitative and qualitative research to committees and individual legislators, such as quick reference, comparisons with other states, programmatic and budget analysis, policy analysis, and identification of trends in Wyoming and in state government. We do not provide legal advice, draft bills, or prepare program evaluations. As staff to the Legislature, we cannot accept requests directly from the public or a legislator’s constituents, nor do they conduct research on one member for another member.

Geographic Information Services (GIS)

One staff member provides technical research services using analytical mapping tools from the Legislature’s geographic information system (GIS) hardware and software purchased as part of the redistricting process. Now that this process is over, we are utilizing this equipment to support other legislative research and policymaking needs. We can provide a variety of information and analysis for committee and individual legislator’s research requests. GIS analysis not only illuminates basic data in a graphic format, it can also be used as a powerful research tool to determine the relationship between different data variables. GIS information helps legislators make policy decisions by providing additional information and insight about an issue. We have a wealth of Census data available, as well as data from a number of state and federal agencies, to analyze using the Legislature’s GIS capabilities.

Legislator Education and Outreach

We are responsible for coordinating training for new and experienced legislators, including orientation sessions for new legislators and optional training sessions for all legislators on a variety of topics. We also develop information resources for legislators about services available from staff, about the legislative process, and government programs.

Legislative Information Management

Information staff manages the storage and distribution of legislative information to legislators, legislative staff, the media, and the public. We are developing processes to manage the lifecycle of documents within the LSO, including systems to manage the storage of documents; the distribution of documents to legislators, staff, and the public; and the long-term preservation and disposition of documents. To accomplish these tasks, we have been developing and refining an electronic document management system. The goal of this effort is to maintain a record of all information resources located within the LSO in a single, comprehensive, searchable database. Legislators and staff can access the system on their computers to find internal and external research resources produced, received, and maintained by LSO in electronic and hardcopy form. The system makes existing records more readily accessible to staff and to legislators and increases the awareness of documents that are maintained in the LSO. We are also responsible for developing and maintaining research resources for legislative staff and for legislators who conduct their own research.

Media Relations

In the past few years, legislative leadership has requested that LSO provide some basic media services for the Legislature and members of the media. These efforts are intended to increase media coverage of legislative activities and events, including interim committee work. Although, LSO’s legislative information officer serves as a liaison to the media, our office does not act as a spokesperson for the Wyoming Legislature; however, we can help members of the media arrange interviews with legislators. We coordinate logistical facility needs with the media, the LSO, legislative leadership, and House and Senate staff. We also provide training to members of the media about the legislative process. We do not develop news releases for individual legislators; however, we do provide training to legislators and staff regarding media relations issues.

Civic Education and OutReach

An emerging trend in state legislatures is to increase public understanding of representative democracy and to develop communication strategies to inform citizens about the legislative process. Information staff are responsible for developing and more effectively distributing information and educational materials about the legislative institution to the public. We serve as a liaison for the legislative branch for civic education programs that promote understanding of, and participation in, the legislative process. We develop strategies to encourage, and increase, citizen participation in the legislative process both during the session and during the interim. We also create and provide resources to legislators for presentations to citizens about the legislative process.

Internship Program Management

We also manage the legislative internship program for community college and university students. LSO employs a part-time intern coordinator during the legislative session and the legislative information officer serves as the contact for internship program during the interim and when the intern coordinator is not available. We promote the internship program within institutions of higher education in Wyoming to increase the participation of colleges around the state. We are also responsible for providing training to interns about legislative process and research methodology.