Theme for a Day: The New Jersey Assembly Did Something More Than Business as Usual Last Session. Lawmakers "Bundled" Bills into Topic Areas for Legislative "Theme Days."

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So what if ... instead of bills wending their way separately through the legislature at their own pace ... they were all packaged under various "themes?"

That was the idea of New Jersey Speaker Albio Sires and Majority Leader Joseph Roberts Jr. The results were "theme" days at the Legislature when a number of similar bills were bundled under such topics as "Advocating for Consumers," "Defending Our Families," "Protecting Our Seniors" "Saluting Our Military and Veterans" and more.

Sires said the thinking behind the concept included promoting a specific agenda, as well as individual member's bills. He added the concept also helped break up the "routineness of floor voting sessions." In all, there were eight theme sessions.

"The themes concept helped bridge the always challenging divide of understanding how the Legislature conducts its business and how the public perceives it," Sires says. "Complex bills, for example, could be packaged under more understandable themes to clearly show the Assembly was working to help seniors or consumers or military veterans."

Before each theme session, various lawmakers held town meetings and other public forums to discuss issues of the impending bill series. Individual lawmakers also held press conferences on some of the themes. As an example, Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew briefed the press on measures he sponsored to improve telephone customer service as part of the Advocating for Consumers theme day.

The most emotional theme was "Saluting Our Military and Veterans" last May. …