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2019 Montana Cannabis Legislation Tracker

In January 2019, we decided to put together the “Montana Cannabis Legislation Tracker”, a visualization of all of the bills proposed that would impact the medical marijuana program moving through the Montana Legislature in the 66th session. This visualization was updated daily with any changes on those bills. The purpose of this was:

    1. To create an intuitive platform for people who wanted to get informed on current legislation and then stay to up-to-date on the Montana marijuana program-related proposed bills, separate from the rest of the 3325 bills proposed.
    2. To spread awareness in the Montana cannabis community of Planet-3 commitment to serving them with open-source resources and support.
    3. To boost Planet-3 search engine rankings. It was hypothesized that creating content and web pages around the legislative session and bills impacting the industry would be beneficial for SEO.

PROJECT DETAILS

CATEGORY: Web Design, Content Creation

SKILLS: HTML, CSS, Email Campaigns, Data Visualization, SEO

PROJECT LEAD: Tresha Sanders

METHOD

This was to be something available to anyone who wanted to stay informed, so it was decided that the best option was to put this on the Planet-3 website. 

The Planet-3 website was created using WordPress. The table of bills introduced was created using HTML and CSS. There was some styling automatically applied from the website’s theme styling sheets, applying a style to singular elements (in this case <table> or <tr> or <td>), not an id or class. 

We used classes to add styling right where we created our tables in WordPress so as to avoid unintentionally applying styles to any other elements on the site. This allowed us to provide the information, updated daily, much more intuitively. For example, bills that had activity within the last week were highlighted green. I implemented a ‘dem’ and ‘rep’ class so that when a user hovered over a bill’s row, that row would become either blue to represent a bill introduced by a Democrat or red to represent a bill introduced by a Republican. I also included a ‘new’ and ‘dead’ class so that when a bill had recent activity, I could just add the class, and it would appear green. When a bill was determined to be Dead by the Legislature, I applied that class, which grayed out the bill’s row.

In HTML, to create a link you use:

<a href="#">link text</a>

This creates a link like this. You may see the issue with this for the Cannabis Legislation Tracker: I wanted the whole row for each bill to be clickable, not just the text in each table element.

A quick search and I found what I needed. Just a quick style to add to the elements in my HTML block that are table data (td) and links (a). The style changes the display of the link to the full width of the table data block.


   td a {
       display: block;
width: 100%;
   }

Pretty much perfect except that I had to add a link to every single table element instead of to a row, but I pick my battles.

Screenshot of the 2019 Montana Cannabis Legislation Tracker page

Screenshot of the 2019 Montana Cannabis Legislation Tracker page

Each bill was given it’s own page so people could navigate to specific bill updates and read the available drafts. The session lasted 87 days until it was adjourned. The Montana Legislature list of all bills and drafts was checked daily and our tracker was updated accordingly. We created a sign up on the page so that anyone interested in getting weekly updates from Planet-3 could do so. These emails were weekly wrap-ups of any movement of the bills in the legislature.

ANALYSIS

Something I have to check manually is something I want to automate if I can. It was time-consuming checking the bills every day for a change when, for most bills, there was very little activity. Then it was time-consuming manually copying and pasting the changes into the main tracker page and adding new rows to the individual bill pages.

NEXT STEPS

Planet-3 has time to prepare for the 67th session. We don’t want to remove the information from the 66th session so reformatting how we provide Montana cannabis legislation information must change. We will begin developing a general platform that lays out available information on legislation up to this point, with links to past Trackers. This will also include past and present ballot initiatives and pertinent legislative information to Montana cannabis businesses.


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