Magazine article Techniques

CAPITOL VIEW: Why Does It Take So Long? Insights into the Legislative Process

Magazine article Techniques

CAPITOL VIEW: Why Does It Take So Long? Insights into the Legislative Process

Article excerpt

Last fall, we used this space to discuss taking the long view when examining our successes in moving career and technical education policy forward in the context of regularly shifting political winds. With the elections behind us, we are looking forward to working with the new 109th Congress to move forward the reauthorizations of several programs that didn't quite come to conclusion in the last Congress.

As ACTE's Public Policy staff was preparing last autumn for the end of the 108th Congress, with so many pieces of legislation of concern to the CTE community still at issue, a basic question came up: Why does it take so long for legislation to move in Congress? It's a question that those of us who have been working in Washington for a long time rarely stop and think about anymore-it has become a way of our working life. It is also an intelligent question, and a question that makes sense to consider as a new Congress convenes.

Why does it take Congress so long to reauthorize a program? They know current law; they have staff dedicated to that issue area; there are committees with designated jurisdiction over the law to guide the process of proposing changes to the law; organized groups on all sides of an issue, such as ACTE, promoting policy changes that they feel will improve existing law; and a timeframe outlined by current law in which to make changes and pass a new law.

Many bills that impact CTE were scheduled for reauthorization in the 108th Congress. Yet, the welfare law is on its eighth extension, the Workforce Investment Act remains in limbo, legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act barely got out of the starting gate last year, and, as you well know, Congress was unable to complete Perkins reauthorization work, despite significant progress in both the House and the Senate.

Sure, we all understand the dizzying array of issues Congress must deal with every year-setting the budget framework; making annual appropriations; renewing laws across a broad spectrum of issues; confirming Administration appointments; and creating new laws to address issues of the day. Sound like a lot? Well it is. But it still begs the question of why it takes so long.

The simple answer is politics. The more complicated answer is politics. I don't pretend to have all the answers. Grafting legislation and appropriations bills is a complicated process involving billions of taxpayer dollars. …

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