‘Frankfort Focus’ class project tracks state legislation


UK political science Professor Richard Waterman attends the State Capitol in Frankfort with students in the Kentucky Legislative Internship Program. The students used their time in Frankfort to create the Frankfort Focus Wikia. 

Matt Smith

A hands-on approach to learning has led a group of political science students to create an innovative new way to track legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly.

These students, enrolled in political science Associate Professor Stephen Voss’ legislative process course, took the lead in assembling a portal on Wikia.com to report information on various pieces of legislation to the public. This web page, titled “Frankfort Focus,” is also a creative way to fulfill a class assignment, which was important to Voss.

“This grew out of me strategizing. What can I do to make this class innovative and hands-on?” Voss said. “I pitched Wikia as a solution, after seeing what they were trying to use. And no doubt, it succeeded.”

About one third of the students in the course also take part in the UK Department of Political Science’s Kentucky Legislative Internship Program. These students spend two or three days a week interning with legislators in Frankfort and were able to use experiences at the Kentucky State Capitol to assist them in creating the Wikia.

Voss divided the class into seven groups, which would each monitor bills in their policy subject areas and follow the path of the various bills. Students in the course are able to login to Wikia and update the information on bills within the committees they are following as legislation progesses.

Corey Elder, a political science senior who interns in the House of Representatives, liked this assignment, largely because it connects his internship with an innovative class project.

“I think the work we did on this project is very helpful because it allows us to apply what we’ve learned in class and in our internships to help others better understand state government,” Elder said. “Everybody in the class worked really hard on this, and the final product was successful.”

Lack of attention to the legislative process in Frankfort was also a driving force behind the project. Voss said people pay little attention to the path of legislation in the state legislature, as the media covers high-profile committee meetings and important votes but does not often share how legislation moves through the process.

“This is largely about improving on public information that’s already available,” Voss said.

Also, one of his main goals would be for people to use “Frankfort Focus” as time passes, allowing future researchers to access the page for information on past legislation. While it is still a work in progress, Voss said he would like to continue to use this online medium for future classes. 

“This is a more motivated group of students that I’ve taught in an upper-division course in years,” Voss said. “And it was successful because of what these students put into it.”