New tool offers free, one-stop access to state legislation information

State Legislative Search Guide valuable for policy organizations

Policy advocates and groups looking at proposing legislation now have a budget-friendly tool that facilitates effective research of information from the 50 public domain state legislative databases.

Created by researchers at the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis (PRC StL), the State Legislative Search Guide is designed for anyone interested in cross-state comparison of legislation.

PRC StL is a collaboration between the School of Medicine and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

Access the 2011 State Legislative Search Guide at

The PRC StL project team for the State Childhood Obesity Policy Evaluation (SCOPE) launched the search guide after finding that the individual public domain state legislation databases usually were as comprehensive as the prohibitively expensive subscription databases that compile legislation.

“Without our search guide, their different formats can make the state databases difficult to use for cross-state legislative research,” says Leah Nguyen, project manager in the Prevention Research Center at WUSTL and a member of the SCOPE team.

“We want small organizations and individuals that can’t afford subscription databases to still be able to effectively conduct cross-state research,” Nguyen says.

Real-world application

As an example, when obesity prevention policy advocates want to propose a new bill or amendment, this tool will help them review related past and current legislation in other states — along with prior legislation in their state — to develop the elements of their proposal and gather a list of potential champions for their bill.

“Using the State Legislative Search Guide to navigate between the state databases will help make this process less time-consuming,” Nguyen says.

The PRC StL has committed to updating the search guide annually because it is a valuable tool for policy advocacy and research.

The District of Columbia currently is not included but will be added in the 2012 revision.

Additional SCOPE team members from WUSTL’s Brown School are graduate student Jooyoung Kong, research assistant at the PRC StL; Amy Eyler, PhD, research associate professor; Elizabeth Dodson, PhD, research assistant professor; and graduate student Kathryn Barnhart, research assistant at the PRC StL.