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Government Information Connection: Politics and Elected Officials: Civic Engagement Resources

Information about politicians and their activities; elections, campaigns, and voting; and political activism.


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Civic Engagement Resources

Resources to promote public participation in the solving of community issues, and to encourage the effecting of change through the electoral and legislative processes.

General Resources is a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics by monitoring factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Use this site to cut through the spin and verify what is true and what is false.
How to Write a Letter to Your Legislator
Tips on proper format and effective content for a letter urging an action or expressing an opinion to a member of Congress or a member of the state legislature.
Law: Reference Tools (UNT Libraries)
How to do legal research and write about the law; how to write case briefs, draft legal documents, and cite legal materials; legal finding tools such as citators, catalogs, indexes, legal encyclopedias, and digests; dictionaries, encyclopedias, and thesauri; directories; forms, templates, and model documents.
Write Your Representative (U.S. House of Representatives)
Uses your ZIP+4 code to identify your U.S. representative, then links to the representative's home page.
Who Represents Me? (Texas Legislature Online)
Provides citizens of Texas with information about their elected officials and the districts they represent. Information includes districts of the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives, Congress (Texas delegation, U.S. House of Representatives), and Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).
U.S. Political Parties and Activist Groups
Resources for researching political parties, interest groups, lobbyists, activists, and other attemps to influence the political system.
Voter's Research Hotline
Call Project Vote Smart's Voter's Research Hotline at 1-800-622-SMART, and your own personal researcher can answer your questions about candidates and elected officials instantly over the phone.

Federal Resources

Major Databases

Federal Digital System
FDSys is a service of the U.S. Government Printing Office that provides free electronic access to full-text, official Federal information; Federal information finding aids; and Federal products for sale.
LexisNexis Congressional
Historic and current congressional information,including full text of congressional publications, finding aids, a bill tracking service, and the full text of public laws and other research materials. Since Congress is interested in all public policy, social, and economic issues, the database is an effective source for general research in many academic disciplines, in addition to research related to specific legislative proposals and laws.

United States Government Agency Web Sites

How a Bill Becomes Law: Explanations of the Federal Legislative Process

I'm Just a Bill (
DVD video recording available in UNT Media Library (Chilton Hall) under Call Number DVD 1242
CD audio recording available in UNT Music Library (4th Floor Willis) under Call Number LPCD 76350 and under Call Number LPCD 85382-85385 [Disc 3]
The legislative process summarized for children in a song and animated cartoon. Lyrics
A Kid's Guide to How a Bill Becomes a Law (University of Michigan)
Simple explanation of the legislative process, with links to related sites.
How Laws Are Made (Kids in the House - Clerk of the House of Representatives)
A charmingly illustrated tutorial for schoolchildren on how a proposed bill moves through Congress.
The Legislative Process (C-Span)
Concise description of 13 steps to a bill's becoming law.
How a Bill Becomes Law (Project Vote Smart)
Brief outline of steps in the legislative process, with key terms linked to a glossary.
Enactment of a Law (THOMAS)
A detailed account of the legislative process by the Parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate.
How Our Laws Are Made (THOMAS)
An exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) account of the law-making process, from the origin of a bill to its enactment into law. Written by the Parliamentarian of the House of Representatives.
How a Bill Really Becomes a Law (The Center on Congress at Indiana University)
Brief article by Lee Hamilton on how untidy and complicated the legislative process really is.

Tracking Federal Legislation

Tracking Federal Legislation in Congress
General explanations of how a bill becomes a law, with resources for following the progress of a bill at the federal level. Track Federal Legislation (Joshua Tauberer)
Use this free subscription service to perform customized tracking of Congressional legislative activities by issues, bills, and members of Congress.
THOMAS: Legislative Information on the Internet (Library of Congress)
The most extensive online collection of information on current and recent U.S. federal legislation. Includes current activities in Congress, bills and public laws, committee reports and selected committee hearings, a directory of current members of Congress, and an explanation of how a bill becomes law.
Legislative History Process (University of Michigan)
Chart showing how a bill becomes law, with extensive links to online resources for researching each step.

State Resources

Major Databases

LexisNexis State Capital
Information about one state, any combination of states, or all 50 states. Includes bills and laws, constitutions, proposed and enacted regulations, legislature membership,and newspapers of record. In addition to primary sources, contains abstracts from the Martindale-Hubell® State Law Digest, as well as public policy analysis from State Capital Journal and the NCSL Legisbrief published by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Texas Government Web Sites

The Legislative Process in Texas

How to Get a Law Passed in Your State (

Guide to Texas Legislative Information (Texas Legislative Council)
The purpose of the GTLI website is to help legislators, other state officials and employees, and interested citizens in researching the work of past legislatures and in tracking the work of the current legislature.
Legislative Reference Library of Texas (Texas Legislative Council)
The primary purpose of the Legislative Reference Library is to satisfy the reference and research needs of the Legislature, its staff, and its committees. Whenever possible within this framework, the library will assist the public and other state agencies with legislative research.The Web site contains legislative information, research tools, citizen resources, news, statistics, and other information.
The Legislative Process (Legislative Reference Library of Texas)
Link to a variety of resources about the law-making process in Texas. Includes a legislative glossary.
Tracking State Legislation in Texas
Description of how a bill becomes law in Texas, with resources for following the progress of a bill through the state legislature.
How to Follow a Bill Using TLO (Texas Legislature Online)
This site summarizes the basic steps involved in passing a state bill into law. Links to information available on the Texas Legislature Online Web site are provided to aid in following these steps.
Contacting Your Legislator (Legislative Reference Library of Texas)
Instructions for identifying your state legislator and contacting your legislator by mail, telephone, or E-mail. Includes proper forms of spoken and written address for various state offices.

Local Resources

Government Web Sites

City of Denton
Official Web site of the city of Denton, Texas. Includes city government links; information about municipal departments and services; special information for residents, visitors, and business; news and events; and instructions on how to do a variety of activities from paying your traffic ticket to filming in Denton.
Denton County
Official Web site of Denton County, Texas. Includes directories of county departments and services; tools for searching county records; information about Denton County; and locations and maps.
State and Local Government on the Net
Convenient, one-stop access to the Web sites of thousands of state agencies and city and county governments. View all the Web sites in a given state, or view all the Web sites across the U.S. pertaining to a specific topic such as education or the courts.

Other Resources

Denton County Residents Legislative Directory
Contact information for all the federal and state legislators serving the residents of Denton County.
Denton County Voters Guide
This guide provides a list of major agencies and organizations of interest to voters, answers to frequently-asked questions about voting, and a political ID card that lists all your precinct and district numbers in one convenient location.

UNT Resources

UNT Governance

UNT System: Board of Regents Information
Appointed by the governor of Texas, the Board of Regents is the governing body of the University of North Texas System, which consists of the University of North Texas, the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, and the UNT Dallas Campus. The Web site includes the Board's rules; meeting schedules, agendas, and minutes; committee memberships; and member profiles. If pending meeting agendas are not posted at this Web site, you can find them at the Secretary of State's Open Meeting Viewer.
UNT Policy Website
This Web site serves as a repository for official University policies and, as part of the Policy Review Project, provides guidelines for policy development and revision. It includes the UNT Policy Manual, long and short descriptions of the policy process at UNT, and forms for planning and writing policies and for getting them approved. Policies are subject to change as policies are reviewed and approved.

UNT Student Organizations and Activities

UNT Student Activities Center
The Student Activities Center provides students with the resources, services, and advising necessary to operate student organizations.
Organization Search (UNT Student Activities Center)
Browse this directory of UNT student organizations by name or category, or search organizations by name, description, or keyword.

Texas Open Meetings Act

Open Meetings (Texas Secretary of State)
The UNT System Board of Regents is subject to the Open Meetings Act (Government Code, Chapter 551), which provides that meetings of governmental bodies must be open to the public (except for expressly authorized executive sessions). Agencies submit their notices to the Secretary of State's Office through a secure Internet site and are immediately available for viewing by the public using the Open Meeting Viewer.If the Secretary of State's site is down, you can also find open meeting notices on the Texas Register Archive at UNT.
Open Meetings Act Handbook (Texas Secretary of State)
Provides guidance in complying with the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Open Meetings Act Made Easy (Texas Secretary of State)
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Open Meetings Act.

Additional Links