HOW TO KILL A BILL
exerts from AKC Legislative Action Manual
by Janice Mullen-Stewart
Defeating a bad bill is often more important than passing a good one. Here are some tried and true tips on How To Kill A Bill.
Ask John Q. Public what the chief functions of legislators are, and he will answer
1) spending money, and
2) passing more bills.
Mr. P will get no argument on point #1. Point #2 however, is not true. The real job of elected officials is to kill, not pass, bills. Probably less than one third of the bills introduced in any legislative session survive the entire process and become laws.
Someone once said, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Just think how bad things might be if all the bills passed!
If a bill has been introduced that you think is an abomination, what can you do about it? You need to take whatever actions necessary to make this bill fall into the category with the two thirds that never make it. There are myriad ways to kill bills. This chapter will explore some of them.
Because of the volume of work legislators have each session and the time constraints they work under, the bills they pass are usually those that are well executed, clear, and broadly supported, or those with lots of political muscle behind them. With extra work, even these bills can be killed.
Timing is important. The earlier you can stop a bill, the less resources you will have to expend, and the less time will be diverted from the important job of passing your own bill.
Certain reactions work best at different points in the bill's progress. Here are some methods and suggestions on the most effective timing.
I. You learn the bill will be introduced.
A. Contact the sponsor; ask who requested the bill, and what they hope it will accomplish. State your opposition, and say why you oppose it.
B. Gather information that will prove the bill is not necessary; will result in strong opposition; will be costly to administer. If this is a vicious dog bill, provide the sponsor with information from the AKC and the ADOA.
II. The bill is introduced.
A. Prepare an alternative bill and urge the sponsor to replace his with yours.
B. Warn your troops of an impending fight.
III. Bill is assigned to committee.
A. Contact the committee chair to state your opposition, and offer your alternative bill again.
B. Prepare for the hearing; plan your strategy.
C. Contact (phone or in person) all members of the committee to state your opposition to the bill, and provide information to any who are interested.
D. All members of your group (the troops) should contact the committee members from their district to ask that they vote against the bill.
IV. Hearing is scheduled.
A. Plan who will attend, and prepare testimony for each witness. If this is a vicious dog law, plan to bring sufficient copies of the AKC packet on vicious dog laws and ADOA information for each committee member, the committee secretary, and any press people at the hearing.
B. Prepare a press release to issue immediately after the hearing. It should state your group's opposition to the bill and some pertinent reasons.
C. Reread the chapter on hearings (Typist's Note: this section will follow within 24 hrs) All rules apply, but this time your purpose is to kill, not pass, a bill.
Your testimony should be planned to cast doubt on any supposed benefits claimed for this bill. You want to show widespread opposition (ideally including from the government branch named in the bill to enforce its provisions). Effective arguments include: bill would cost too much money to enforce; enforcement would be difficult, or discriminatory; bill would be harmful to a particular group such as the elderly, handicapped, children, farmers, etc. (use your imagination, but do not fabricate); bill is confusing, unclear, vague, open to misinterpretation; bill will impact on small towns, or on rural areas, etc. If all else fails, attempt to have the bill referred to interim study. If the bill offends you only in part, prepare an amendment to deal with that part and present it at the hearing.
V. Committee passes the bill.
A. Check the date the bill is scheduled for floor action.
B. If the committee vote was not unanimous, will a person from the losing side file a minority report or speak against the bill during floor action?
C. Ask a friendly legislator to remove the bill from the Consent Calendar, and lead a floor fight against the bill.
D. Distribute fact sheets to all house members, outlining briefly the strongest points against this bill. Try to have the fact sheets delivered to each house member's assigned seat, or if that is not possible, distribute them as the members file into the house the day the bill is scheduled for debate.
E. Issue press releases to follow up on earlier release. This release should urge citizens to ask their legislators to vote against the bill.
F. Attempt to include other groups in your opposition, and urge them to make their position public.
G. All people who have any interest in this bill should contact their own legislators and urge them to vote against the bill.
There are dozens of parliamentary maneuvers that, in the hands of an astute legislator, can effectively end the life of any bill for at least the current session. As one example, if your head count tells you that you have almost enough votes to defeat this bill, but not quite - have one of your supporters vote with the other side. Later, as one of those on the winning side, he can move for reconsideration at another time, when you have had time together a few more votes.
You and your supporters should be visibly present in the state house the day your bill is debated. An effective ploy to call attention to your presence without giving offense is to have each supporter wear the same insignia. For example, you might all wear arm-bands printed with the logo "Responsible Dog Owner". Do not sport tee shirts emblazoned with "I love my dog". This is serious business; do not appear frivolous or antagonistic.
VI. Bill passes and is sent to the other house.
A. Return to step III and retrace your steps. Do not give up. The game is far from over.
Bills are heard first in whichever house they are introduced (House bills start in the House, Senate bills in the Senate). Often there will be diminished enthusiasm in the second house, especially if the bill was opposed in the first. Negative momentum will be on your side, If you do not give up too soon. When is too soon? Any time before the bill is defeated.
VII. Bill passes second house and is sent to the governor.
A. Meet with the governor and urge him to veto the bill, or if that seems to be politically inexpedient, to re-refer the bill for further study to the originating committee.
B. Continue to issue regular press releases listing arguments against the bill and asking citizens' help in urging the governor to veto it.
C. Utilize local radio talk shows to spread support for your side, as with press releases.
D. Request your legislative friends contact the governor and ask him to veto the bill. Pocket vetoes are less politically risky for the governor, since they are not confrontational.
End AKC How to Kill a Bill
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