What bills interest groups supported used to be hard to access. Not anymore.

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An integral part of creating a law is the committee hearing. It gives citizens a chance to make their case to lawmakers about why a certain measure should become law, and itís the only opportunity lobbyists, interest groups and companies have to publicly declare their support or opposition to a particular bill.

The hearings are arguably more important in the Missouri Senate, which often has the last say on most legislations, so knowing who supports what helps decode a billís intentions. But, until recently, the public could not easily access this important information.

Although the House has put who testifies at committee hearings online for years, the Senate, historically, has not done so.

If you didnít attend a hearing in Jefferson City, to find out who supported or opposed a bill you had to visit the committee chairmanís office and get a printed copy of the list. If you were interested in who supported a bill from last year, you had to visit the Missouri State Archives, a short walk from the capitol, and sift through piles of paperwork to find the list for the particular bill.

The Columbia Missourian and Missouri News Network wanted to change that. So we did.

We collected every Senate committee minute ó the list of testifiers ó since 2013, put it one place and made it searchable. You can access that database at https://senate-minutes.rjifuture.org.

After being told about our plans for this project earlier this year, the Senate began putting copies of the committee minutes online, which you can find at www.senate.mo.gov/standing-committees. But previous yearsí minutes are not on the stateís site, and it is not searchable by lobbyist, lawmaker, etc. Our database offers those features and allows for analysis over time, so it supplements the stateís official record.We hope you use this database to help illuminate an essential part of the democratic process.

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