Legislative Routing Process

Article excerpt

Persuading a lawmaker to introduce a bill on an idea you support does not spell success in the legislative process.

Mike Seney, vice president of The State Chamber, took the 300 members of the Oklahoma Small Business Advisory Commission on a trip last week through the circuitous route by which a bill becomes a law, or not.

In all of his years of observing the system that develops the Oklahoma Statutes, Seney said he has discovered only one constant -- change. Rest assured, he said, that the precious proposal you hand a lawmaker to shepherd through the process will not be the same when it comes out the other end of the legislative machine. Another basic fact of legislative life, he said, is that less than one-quarter of measures introduced during a two-year legislative session survive. For example, Seney said, during the 1997-98 session, of the total 3,782 measures introduced, only 857 or about 23 percent were signed into law. Even if a bill sails through one legislative house, he said, its eventual success is not assured. "A bill may pass unanimously in one house because people know it won't be heard in committee in the other house," Seney said. It is in committee where most legislative changes are made, and where most measures die. Relatively few bills are killed on the floor of the House or Senate. In general, Seney told the business owners, lawmakers who chair the various committees control the legislative process. It is they who decide whether a particular bill will receive a committee hearing. The one exception is a House rule by which a bill must be given committee consideration if half of committee members request it. "You need to be aware of these facts, because we've got our work cut out for ourselves," Seney said. He said the process is essentially the same in both houses, although there is generally less public input in the Senate. …