2016 Wrap-up, Political Eye Candy Style

December 20, 2016by Karen Suhaka

Filed under: Eye Candy

It’s the time of year that I like to look back at the year that just finished. The special session in North Carolina that saw 30 bills introduced in the waning days of 2016 could be considered the cherry on top what can safely be called a very surprising year in American politics. We here at BillTrack50 were busier than ever, with more than 175,000 visitors looking at over 10,000,000 bills during the year.

Let’s start with a word cloud of the top 100 bills read on BillTrack50 in 2016:



Compared to the top topics in bills passed in 2016:


The difference between these word cloud serves as a reminder that although the issues people care about enough to research and read online are wide and varied, and shift every year, most of the business  state legislatures concern themselves with year after year is health, school, law enforcement, and taxes.

(thanks as always to Wordle)

To get more specific, the top 5 bills read over all in 2016 were:

AR HB1040: To Limit The Practice Of Athletic Training In A Nonclinical Setting. (2017 pre-file but a popular read in Dec 2016)
OK SB1323: Schools; directing the withholding of State Aid if a Board of Education adopts certain policy and receives certain complaint.
NJ S298: Prohibits the sale or distribution of flavored electronic smoking devices.
AL HB365: Criminal sex offenders over age 21, sex offenses against child 12 years of age or younger, surgical castration required prior to release from custody of Corrections Department
NJ S2160: Concerns unemployment compensation and labor disputes.

Thanks to the election and our partnership with Ballotpedia, we saw record numbers of people on BillTrack50 in October and November reading up on their legislators. It warmed our hearts to see so many people looking at state level bills and legislators.

The top 5 legislators reviewed were:

Lorena Gonzalez  –  (D) California
Isadore Hall III  –  (D) California
Rahn Mayo  –  (D) Georgia
Joe Farrer  –  (R) Arkansas
Joe Vitale  –  (D) New Jersey

We here at BillTrack50 have been doing this long enough to get a good picture of the ebb and flow of how a session usually rolls out. Here’s a look at a few years of activity:


*early 2013 data is a little wonky because that was our first crunch time and we had some optimization we still needed to do

You can see bill introductions peak first each year, and peter out quickly. Actions peak next, and are higher every other year because of the four states that only meet in odd years (MT, ND, NV, TX) and several states that only have mini-sessions in even years. You can see votes building slowly and falling slowly, peaking around April each year. In the busy spring months there are about 20,000 votes a month between the statehouses and Congress. Although most states start their sessions in January or February, states finish their sessions at all different times. (This year’s schedule, for example). You can also see a general downward trend in activity over the last four years. I’ll let you know in another four years if that seems to be a cycle matching the presidential term.

Here’s what all that activity amounted to, state-by-state, in 2016 (note MI, OH, and MA have a few possible days left in their sessions):2016billsbystate


As always, the states vary widely on how many bills they introduce and what percentage pass.

Speaking of active states, we were happy to see so many people from all over the country visiting BillTrack50 this year:

Google Analytics Usage Map by Metro Area


That’s our wrap-up for 2016. Want to look ahead? Here’s the 2017 session calendar from NCSL and our own downloadable pdf, and you might want to check out our Hot Topics for 2017 Legislation webinar.

For a delightful anecdotal look at 2016 see this Slice of Life post from Sarah. To look even further back you can see my 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 wrap-ups. And for the record, here’s our top 3 blog posts from 2016:


Thanks for a great 2016 everyone!  Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017.