Forward Kentucky is a media organization focused on progressive politics, politicians, and policy.
Its founder, Bruce Maples, runs the organization out of the vibrant city of Louisville, Kentucky. Speaking with Bruce you get the genuine impression that he is proud of his state and loves his city. It’s easy to understand why: Louisville sits on the beautiful Ohio River, is the home of the bourbon movement and has been named one of the top 10 food cities in the world by National Geographic.
Bruce founded Forward Kentucky in 2015 and has about 30,000 visitors per month who come to stay up-to-date on the latest in Kentucky political news and view the legislative scorecards. He has a dedicated, paid membership base and a diverse team of contributors who collaborate on the content.
Bruce had been looking for an easy way to track legislation. He tried the Legislative Research Commission’s bill tracker, but found it did not automate enough of the process and he didn’t receive timely alerts on bill changes. He also tried other legislative tracking tools, but found them cumbersome to work with.
In addition to the inconvenient bill tracking tools available, Kentucky also only has a 30 day legislative session. As Bruce put it,
“In 30 days they approved 138 bills and 50 resolutions. How can any one person track this?”
After some searching, he found BillTrack50 on Google. When he looked at the bill tracking and research tool, he really liked that he could embed it on his website. He worked with Karen, founder of BillTrack50, to learn the different features of the platform, including how to create bill sheets, how to tag and sort legislation, and how to use the embeddable scorecard.
Karen also introduced him to our visual, mobile-friendly, and interactive scorecard. He’s using the two different scorecards, in tandem, to help the public access and interpret voting data.
We asked Bruce what he liked about each scorecard, he said:
BillTrack50’s Scorecard Widget
“This one is more about the data. It has a bar chart, district maps, and ranking by total points. It’s a very effective tool. The thing that got the most attention is the ability to track bills and progress. Also, the view of all of the legislators in the chamber left to right with the bar chart – people love that.”
The Visual Legislative Scorecard
This scorecard has pictures and is based only on the voting total or voting percentage. It’s is easier to use and shows, “Here’s what gave them their points and here’s how they voted on the bills we cared about.” It’s very easy to see the Voting Record for each legislator upfront. He’s even used it personally to look up why they scored a legislator a certain way.
The Scorecard Process
- BillTrack50 provides Forward Kentucky with daily information about new legislation through email alerts and on their online platform.
- Forward Kentucky identifies bills that fall into their area of interest and sets rating for each bill, which they enter into the BillTrack50 scorecard using a simple web interface.
- BillTrack50 compiles all the votes for the bills that have been rated and calculates a total score for each legislator.
- BillTrack50 automatically incorporates new votes into the legislator scores.
- Both scorecards automatically sync from BillTrack50 to pull in any new votes, as the votes are submitted.
This process ensures we’re always keeping the Forward Kentucky’s website up-to-date with the latest voting information. The goal of our syncing process is to get the scores to the public much faster than manual scoring.
Easily setting up bill sheets and scoring the bills is nice, but Bruce is most excited about the scorecard results, saying, “What was cool was to THEN be able to do the scorecard. I showed this off at a political group meeting and people said ‘Oh that’s cool. Wow, we like that.’ They were really impressed.”
Forward Kentucky made history in 2019 announcing “the first scorecard for state legislators based on progressive values and issues” in an April 15 press release.
The scorecards were also recommended by the Kentucky State American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations in their news post.
“In the governor’s primary this year, the incumbent had a challenger that ended up winning a few counties. One of the things the governor’s supporters used against the challenger was that he was ranked higher on our scorecards than the challenger.”
For those wondering: The incumbent won.
What does Bruce plan to do next? Since “the scorecard ended up being really fun and people enjoyed it. It’s a very effective tool,” he’s currently using the scorecards to put together an award ceremony during the first week of the 2020 session. Forward Kentucky is planning to award the five legislators who received a perfect, 100% score with a certificate of “Progressive Legislator of the Year”.