Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match_all(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 846

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 847

Warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 4 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 851

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872
A Strategy for Legislative Change - FGS Wiki

A Strategy for Legislative Change


Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: group name must start with a non-digit at offset 8 in /home/ens9/public_html/fgs/mwiki/includes/MagicWord.php on line 872
From FGS Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
(Created page with "[NOTE: this page has not yet been formatted. If you are interested in assisting in the care and maintenance of the FGS Wiki Content, please contact Thomas MacEntee at publici...")
 
 
Line 1: Line 1:
[NOTE: this page has not yet been formatted.  If you are interested in assisting in the care and maintenance of the FGS Wiki Content, please contact Thomas MacEntee at publicity@fgs.org.]
 
 
 
[[Category:Strategies for Presidents]]
 
[[Category:Strategies for Presidents]]
 +
 +
The purpose of this posting is to provide state and local
 +
societies with a strategy for initiating legislation and
 +
getting it enacted into law.
 +
 +
 +
== BACKGROUND ==
 +
 +
Law governs the creation and management of public
 +
records. Retention, rights of access, publication of
 +
records, and fees are either specified in law or in
 +
regulations which are based on law. Genealogical
 +
societies are fully within their rights to seek new laws,
 +
changes to existing laws, or repeal of laws that relate
 +
to the preservation and/or use of public records for
 +
genealogical and historical research.
 +
This strategy is based on experience in Wisconsin
 +
where a little-known provision in a state law caused
 +
certain vital records to be closed to photocopying. The
 +
strategy changed a law and reopened the records.
 +
Certain procedures may be unique to Wisconsin, but
 +
the principles can be adapted for almost any state.
 +
 +
 +
== POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS ==
 +
 +
Regardless of personal political orientation or
 +
affiliation check it at the door. If your efforts become
 +
identified with a political party or movement,
 +
opposition is assured.
 +
 +
Be aware of the political environment in which you
 +
will be working. Is the legislature evenly divided or is
 +
one party dominant? Within a party, which legislators
 +
are at odds with each other? Such concerns influence
 +
whom you will ask to sponsor your bill.
 +
 +
One political stratagem is voter contact with
 +
lawmakers. But letters, e-mail, phone calls, and faxes
 +
that are emotional or accusatory, or sent at the least
 +
effective time, only hurt the cause. Instead, keep the
 +
genealogical community informed as to the status of
 +
the legislative efforts and direct an intelligent,
 +
controlled communications campaign.
 +
 +
 +
== THE ORGANIZATION PHASE ==
 +
 +
Define your problem and your objectives carefully.
 +
Does the problem result from an existing law or from
 +
the lack of a law? Be specific about the cause.
 +
Establish a task force concentrating on a specific
 +
problem rather than a committee which absorbs much
 +
time and effort and sometimes degenerates into a
 +
discussion group. Give the task force the authority to
 +
do the job.
 +
 +
 +
== THE PREPARATION PHASE ==
 +
 +
Study the current law. Get a copy of any law(s)
 +
pertaining to the problem. Sources are law libraries of
 +
colleges and universities (or a friendly law firm), state
 +
legislative support agencies (e.g., in Wisconsin the
 +
Legislative Reference Bureau assists legislators in
 +
drafting laws and operates a state law library available
 +
to the public), and state legislative Web sites.
 +
 +
Watch for the cross connections with other laws. The
 +
state version of the Freedom of Information Act is
 +
likely to be in a different part of the state statutes than
 +
the one in which you are primarily interested.
 +
Pay particular attention to what the law says about
 +
funding and fees that may apply. For example, in
 +
Wisconsin a portion of the fees for copies of birth
 +
certificates goes to a child abuse prevention program
 +
whose director testified that our proposal could result
 +
in lost revenues for her program.
 +
 +
Learn the legislative process. Perhaps the legislature
 +
publishes something on this (in Wisconsin there is a
 +
whole chapter on the legislative process in the “Blue
 +
Book” [see below]). Another source is groups such as
 +
the League of Women Voters. Learn the steps in the
 +
process and the hoops through which you will jump.
 +
Get a copy of the legislative calendar. Legislatures are
 +
elected for a given term. During a term certain times
 +
may be designated for introduction of bills, floor
 +
debate, action by the governor, veto review, etc. At the
 +
end of the term, generally, bills that have not been
 +
enacted into law die. They are not carried over to the
 +
next term. If you enter the process too late, you may
 +
waste your time.
 +
 +
Get a guide to state government. In Wisconsin this is
 +
titled the “Blue Book,” and is published every two
 +
years to coincide with the legislative terms. The
 +
Missouri version also appears biannually but is titled
 +
the “Official Manual, State of Missouri.” These books
 +
provide information about state government, and list
 +
all legislators and other elected state officials with
 +
their party affiliations, committee assignments, office
 +
locations with telephone, fax and e-mail addresses,
 +
and biographies. This is essential information and the
 +
book is likely to be one of your most frequently
 +
consulted resources. Try to get a copy for every
 +
member of the task force. In Wisconsin they are
 +
distributed free to constituents by state legislators.
 +
Prepare a list of all the interested parties that might
 +
relate to your legislation. Identify not just friends and
 +
enemies, but also those who seem neutral. Besides the
 +
agencies most directly affected by the law, consider
 +
organizations such as historical societies and media
 +
groups who could favor open access to records.
 +
 +
 +
== THE DRAFTING PHASE ==
 +
 +
Coordinate with all the interested parties before
 +
finalizing your proposal. That means preferably
 +
talking with them face-to-face or via videoconference. It is as important to
 +
talk to those you may have identified as “enemies” as
 +
it is to “friends.” Competing interests can sometimes
 +
be reconciled, and compromises reached. If nothing
 +
else, you will be better positioned to deal with their
 +
arguments. Also, keep personnel turnover in mind and
 +
don’t hesitate to recheck organization/agency
 +
positions on the issues. In Wisconsin we consulted
 +
with a certain agency head who indicated a neutral
 +
position. By the time legislative hearings began she
 +
had been replaced, and the agency blind-sided us with
 +
a statement opposing our bill. Had we gone back to
 +
consult with the new agency head, we might still have
 +
had opposition, but we would have been much better
 +
prepared for it.
 +
 +
The proposed legislation will undoubtedly be
 +
massaged into “officialese” by some legislative
 +
support agency before the legislature begins to
 +
consider it, but you need a fairly well developed
 +
version for them to work from. Begin with a proposal
 +
in general terms, something that all members of the
 +
task force can agree on; this may suffice for initial
 +
coordination with the friendlier interested parties.
 +
When you get to those who are less likely to be
 +
helpful, however, be certain what you want in the
 +
legislation. If you then make changes, go back for
 +
their reaction(s) as a courtesy.
 +
 +
 +
== GETTING PROPOSED LEGISLATION INTRODUCED ==
 +
 +
Proposed legislation must be introduced to the House
 +
or Senate by a member who then becomes that bill’s
 +
sponsor. In Wisconsin, the sponsor refers the proposal
 +
to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) for
 +
drafting in appropriate legislative language. The LRB
 +
also prepares a “plain language” analysis of the bill
 +
identifying its purpose, how it will work, and how it
 +
relates to existing legislation. The sponsor may then
 +
officially introduce the bill and usually becomes the
 +
floor manager who guides the bill through the
 +
legislative process. Finding the right sponsor(s) is a
 +
very important step. While it is not uncommon for a
 +
legislator to introduce a bill at the request of a
 +
constituent or an organization, his or her heart may
 +
not be in it. Look for legislators with an interest in
 +
genealogy or history.
 +
 +
Bills may also have cosponsors. The more cosponsors
 +
the better. Cosponsors are not obligated to vote for a
 +
bill, they may simply “sign on” to ensure a
 +
constituent's interests are at least heard, but having
 +
become cosponsors they are far more likely to vote for
 +
it than against.
 +
 +
Political balance is another consideration.
 +
Genealogists’ bills are, or at least should be,
 +
nonpartisan. Therefore, it is desirable that sponsors
 +
and cosponsors come from “both sides of the aisle.”
 +
However, the political fact is that bills introduced by
 +
a member of the majority party are more likely to
 +
survive the process than those introduced from the
 +
minority.
 +
 +
The technique used in Wisconsin was to find a
 +
majority party member to be the principal sponsor in
 +
each house (the Senate was Democrat, the Assembly
 +
Republican), and then to enlist as many cosponsors of
 +
both parties as possible. In the Assembly we were
 +
fortunate in finding active genealogists to be both
 +
sponsor and primary cosponsor, one Republican, one
 +
Democrat. In both Senate and Assembly the sponsor
 +
was the assistant majority leader. Lining up
 +
cosponsors was the first occasion for unleashing
 +
letter-writers. Prior to this, all letter writing should be
 +
discouraged. As soon as the LRB assigned an initial
 +
identifying number to the proposed bill we asked
 +
every genealogical society in the state to have
 +
members write and/or call their State Senators and
 +
Representatives to request they become cosponsors of
 +
the bill. The sponsors allowed a set period of time
 +
before formally introducing the bill into both the
 +
Senate and Assembly to allow other legislators to sign
 +
on as cosponsors. This created a deadline for our
 +
work.
 +
 +
 +
== COMMITTEE HEARINGS ==
 +
 +
After a bill is introduced into the Wisconsin
 +
legislature, it is referred to a committee for public
 +
hearings and recommendations. Many bills die in
 +
committee. The committee chair decides if and when
 +
a public hearing will be held, then decides if and when
 +
“executive action” (committee recommendations and
 +
vote) will be taken. The committee may recommend
 +
passage, amendment, or rejection, in which case it is
 +
likely to simply not report the bill out. Sometimes
 +
animosities between a bill’s sponsor and a committee
 +
chair (even of the same party) may result in no
 +
committee action, a factor worth considering when
 +
looking for a sponsor.
 +
 +
The public hearings permit the sponsor, and
 +
cosponsors if desired, to make a statement as to why
 +
the bill should be enacted. Organizations and agencies
 +
with an interest and any member of the public may
 +
also testify for the bill, against it, or “for information.”
 +
The last may be very important because testifying “for
 +
information” means “not opposed.” From the right
 +
agency that is as good as being in favor. In Wisconsin
 +
all it takes to testify at a public hearing is to show up
 +
and to sign a request slip indicating one’s desire to
 +
testify. One may also sign the slip indicating he or she
 +
does not want to testify but is present to support the
 +
bill. In lining up witnesses to testify for the bill, who
 +
testifies (and whom they represent) is more important
 +
than how many testify. However, it is important to
 +
make an impact with numbers of non-testifying
 +
supporters.
 +
 +
Testimony is effective if done properly. Legislative
 +
committees usually hear a number of bills at the same
 +
session. Thus, testimony should be brief and direct.
 +
Providing a written statement is wise because members
 +
are in and out of the hearing room and are not always
 +
paying close attention to testimony. Reading from that
 +
written statement is not wise, as some members may
 +
think you are wasting their time. Use oral testimony to
 +
emphasize key points. Submit a written statement after
 +
the hearing to clarify and rebut testimony.
 +
 +
Although the committee chair controls the sequence of
 +
witnesses, being last on the list can be advantageous
 +
because you have the opportunity to rebut opponents.
 +
However, being last on the list may also mean you have
 +
less time and may possibly receive less attention.
 +
It is strongly recommended that the principal witnesses
 +
for a genealogical bill should attend at least one other
 +
hearing conducted by the committee before testifying.
 +
Having an idea of procedures and of the idiosyncrasies of
 +
the committee members can be a real advantage.
 +
Usually both houses of a bicameral legislature will hold
 +
hearings on your bill, particularly if the bill is introduced
 +
into both houses, as was the case in Wisconsin. Each
 +
house identified the bill separately so that the Assembly
 +
considered Assembly Bill 709 while the Senate
 +
considered Senate Bill 393, even though they were
 +
identical. Having two hearings permits both proponents
 +
and opponents to sharpen their testimony and/or to work
 +
out compromises that can be reported out of the later
 +
committee as a recommended amendment to the bill.
 +
 +
The committee hearings provided a second opportunity
 +
for letter writing. This time the letters were directed to
 +
the chair of the committee and to any members of the
 +
committee of whom the writer was a constituent, and
 +
urged the committee to recommend the bill for passage.
 +
Letter writers were able to add arguments for the bill to
 +
reinforce testimony given at the hearings. In addition to
 +
letter writing, some carefully directed telephoning was
 +
employed in the Wisconsin action. Wherever possible we
 +
identified genealogists, or friends, who were constituents
 +
or acquaintances of committee members (and committee
 +
chairs, in particular) to contact them directly to
 +
encourage support for the bill and answer questions if
 +
appropriate.
 +
 +
 +
== GETTING THE BILL TO A VOTE ==
 +
 +
Once a bill is reported out of committee for passage it is
 +
scheduled for floor action. If the bill is non-controversial
 +
there is often no debate before a vote. In Wisconsin a bill
 +
must be “read” three times before it can be voted on.
 +
Usually a “reading” is a perfunctory reading by the clerk
 +
of the bill’s number, title, and a brief summary. The first
 +
reading comes when it is introduced and is followed by
 +
referral to committee. The second reading comes after the
 +
bill is returned from committee and is scheduled for
 +
action (placed on the Calendar) by the Rules Committee
 +
or the leadership. At the second reading amendments
 +
may be offered, debated, and voted on after which there
 +
is a vote to “engross” the bill (i.e., put it in final form).
 +
After a required delay to allow for any reconsideration of
 +
the vote to engross, the bill is read for the third time. It is
 +
common for the rules to be suspended so that the third
 +
reading follows immediately after the vote to engross.
 +
After the third reading the bill is available for debate and
 +
for a final vote for passage. After passing one house the
 +
bill is “messaged” to the other house where the same
 +
basic procedure is followed. In the case of the Wisconsin
 +
situation the Assembly version of the bill passed first and
 +
was messaged to the Senate. The Senate was able to act
 +
rapidly because the committee hearings on the
 +
companion (identical) bill had already been conducted.
 +
 +
The foregoing is the procedure as it is meant to work.
 +
However, the Wisconsin situation had an additional
 +
complication: an impasse between the bill’s proponents
 +
(the genealogist task force) and the state vital records
 +
office. The latter wanted to impose certain restrictions on
 +
use of copies that the genealogists found unacceptable,
 +
and succeeded in getting the Assembly Committee to
 +
consider recommending them as an amendment to the
 +
bill. The bill’s sponsor objected because the genealogists
 +
had not been consulted on the amendment. Thus, the
 +
impasse. Because the Senate sponsor was committed to
 +
helping get the bill through, he called a special meeting
 +
of all the parties concerned to discuss the issues.
 +
 +
A compromise was quickly reached. The vital records
 +
office was willing to withdraw the most restrictive
 +
language if the genealogists would accept provisions
 +
having to do with labeling photocopies and posting
 +
copies of vital records on the Internet. The genealogists
 +
would have preferred to strike both these provisions, but
 +
reasoned that it was better to restore the right to copy the
 +
records in question at the cost of these provisions than to
 +
have the bill completely withdrawn. It took one day for
 +
the Legislative Reference Bureau to prepare the
 +
necessary amendment to the bill. The point is that
 +
compromise is a necessary part of the whole process and
 +
we must be prepared to accept a less than perfect
 +
solution.
 +
 +
Agreement on the compromise unleashed the next-to-last
 +
phase of the communication campaign. This time, a
 +
straight-forward request was given to Wisconsin
 +
genealogists to contact their legislators urging them to
 +
vote for the bill. The bill passed both houses on a voice
 +
vote.
 +
 +
 +
== IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER ==
 +
 +
The final hurdle in achieving legislative success is to gain
 +
the governor’s signature on the bill. In Wisconsin the
 +
governor may veto an entire bill or he may use a lineitem veto to actually change the bill. Because bills passed
 +
by the legislature are still subject to review and
 +
recommendation by state agencies, it was quite possible
 +
that the vital records office could have, if they so desired,
 +
canceled the right to copy the vital records in question.
 +
Thus, the final letter-writing project was to write or call
 +
the governor’s office urging him to sign the bill as it
 +
reached his desk. He did. The entire process took fifteen
 +
months from task force organization to governor’s
 +
signature.

Latest revision as of 00:45, 14 August 2013

Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Toolbox