Critics, Defenders Debate over Legislative Process

By Carter, Ray | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Critics, Defenders Debate over Legislative Process


Carter, Ray, THE JOURNAL RECORD


There are generally two views on the legislative process. To some, making law is like making sausage: The average person doesn't want to watch it up close, but is usually satisfied with the end result.
But others say the lawmaking process should be like the centerfold of a cheap men's magazine: Every graphic detail should be obvious to even casual observers.
Oklahoma's legislative process, critics say, is riddled with procedures used to obscure public scrutiny and grease the skids for proposals too controversial to become law if voted on individually and in full light of the public.
Those critics say the average small business owner or citizen in Oklahoma has little chance of tracking legislation that could impact his or her life without extraordinary effort.
"If they want to track a bill, that's fine. It's probably not that hard," said one lobbyist, who asked not to be named. "But if they really want to track a subject and know whether something's going to happen that's going to affect their industry, I don't know how they've done it. They've made the system (at the Capitol) so difficult that you've got to have me or somebody like me. And that's kind of crazy."
Defenders of Oklahoma's legislative process say it might not always be pretty, but the procedures used are designed to make the best use of lawmakers' limited time.
Rep. Russ Roach, D- Tulsa, tackles procedural issues every year as chair of the House Rules Committee. In recent years, he noted that the House has adopted several reforms meant to increase scrutiny without making it impossible for bills to become law.
That's a balance that must be carefully maintained, he said.
"We can put a lot of other restrictions on people that will keep the process from working, and that's not desirable," Roach said.
But critics say the process still has plenty of room for improvement.
Conference committees
One of the most controversial aspects of the legislative process in Oklahoma is the use of conference committees. While standing committees of the House and Senate (such as the House Insurance Committee) meet publicly at set times and dates, that's not true of conference committees.
In fact, it's rare to ever see an actual meeting of conference committee members. That's because a conference committee - created to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate version of a bill - involve very little participation from members and even less from the public.
The statutory language developed in conference is usually generated by the bill's author or a lobbyist. Conference committee members then "vote" on the bill by individually signing it if they support the new language.
The process often forces a face-off between lobbyists, with one side seeking signatures from lawmakers, and the other side seeking promises not to sign a bill. It's akin to "herding cats," said one lobbyist interviewed for this article.
To critics, conference committees are the legislative version of Enron's off-balance-sheet partnerships - a procedure used to hide information that should be public knowledge. Although the changes made to a bill in conference can be minor, the whole bill can also be gutted and rewritten - and the public won't see the new language until the bill emerges from conference, often during the final hectic weeks of session.
Although most states use conference committees, Oklahoma stands apart, based on data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures. According to 1999 figures compiled by NCSL, Oklahoma ranked second in the nation in the creation of conference committees, trailing only Texas.
In 1999, Texas had between 166 and 172 conference committees while Oklahoma created 154 to 163 conference committees. Louisiana was third with 146 conference committees and Arizona was next with 103.
At the other end of the spectrum, Washington's Legislature created no conference committees in 1999 and Wisconsin created only one conference committee. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Critics, Defenders Debate over Legislative Process
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.