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The Legislative Process

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Presentation on theme: "The Legislative Process"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Legislative Process
Melinda Hugdahl Staff Attorney Legal Services Advocacy Project St. Paul, MN

2 What we’ll talk about today
A short primer on lobbying What LSAP does Legislative process – from idea to law

3 What is a lobbyist? A person who talks with elected officials or encourages others to do so. There are also requirements regarding how much a person makes from lobbying or spends on lobbying. Once you meet those requirements you must register as a lobbyist.

4 Who registers lobbyists?
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Once registered, lobbyists are required to file periodic reports They cover expenses, topics lobbied, and other items.

5 The Gift Ban Lobbyists in Minnesota are prohibited from providing gifts to any legislator, legislative staff and other public officials. It is a broad rule, and covers everything from monetary gifts to meals and honoraria.

6 How is lobbying like courtroom work?
Negotiation skills Knowledge of the law Acting on behalf of a client Your reputation precedes you

7 How is lobbying NOT like courtroom work?
It is a political process – it is not impartial There are no procedures such as discovery, pre-trial motions to level the playing field Legislative drafting skills are needed Just as much work goes on outside of a hearing as it does inside a hearing – there is no such thing as ex parte There are many rules, but also many exceptions

8 What is LSAP? The Legal Services Advocacy Project is the division of Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance that provides legislative and policy advocacy. We advocate on behalf of low-income Minnesotans on a variety of civil legal issues such as family law, consumer law, housing law, public benefits law and health care law.

9 How an Idea Becomes a Law

10 Four Keys to Passing Significant Legislation
Substantive Knowledge Legislative/Process Knowledge Media Strategy Grass roots network/strategy

11 Five Process Phases Development and Approval of an Idea
Drafting and Introducing a Bill The Committee Process On to the Floor! (and beyond) The Governor

12 Development and Approval of an Idea
The First Phase: Development and Approval of an Idea

13 Development of an Idea Legislative proposals come from many sources
Most are from our attorneys, who tell us about problems they see in their cases

14 Development of an Idea Once an idea is brought forward, we conduct a lot of research on the specific issue that needs to be addressed. Research may include previous legislation, other related laws, and laws of other states. Next, we solicit input and feedback from our practitioners.

15 Community Partners We work a lot with community-based organizations on issues of mutual concern. They often times have a significant grass roots network that can be very helpful. They may also have media contacts and strategies. We may discuss specific proposals, how to strategically work together, and share ideas.

16 Approval of an Idea Our legislative agenda for each session is ultimately set by the Project Directors. They are the Directors of each of the 7 member programs in the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition. The Directors review proposals, ask questions, and make a final decision as to whether ideas will be pursued.

17 Drafting and Introducing a Bill
The Second Phase: Drafting and Introducing a Bill

18 Meeting with Legislators
Early in the session (or even before the session), LSAP meets with legislators about our proposals for the session. We discuss proposals, and any hurdles that might arise. We also discuss other issues that might arise during the session. We meet with many different legislators, including: Legislative leadership; Committee chairs and members; Legislators who have authored Legal Services legislation in the past; and Legislators who have an interest in Legal Services issues.

19 Drafting Legislation Legislation must be drafted in a very specific bill format. All legislation must go through the Office of the Revisor of Statutes before it can become a bill. However, there are typically many interactions with legislators, staff and others prior to the actual bill being drafted.

20 Drafting Legislation LSAP works with House Research, Senate Counsel, and the Revisor of Statutes. A legislator must authorize work with legislative staff. In many cases, there is significant dialogue between LSAP and legislative staff regarding both substantive legal issues and drafting issues.

21 Legislative Authors An author is a legislator who sponsors the bill.
There is a chief author, and there may be co-authors. Selecting an author is one of the most strategic decisions LSAP makes on a bill. At the point an author is selected, the bill becomes the author’s bill. The author is involved in discussions about the language of the bill, including any discussions with legislative staff.

22 Introducing the Bill The author determines when the bill will be introduced. The author will decide whether he or she wants to get coauthors, or whether the lobbyist can do that. The bill is then submitted for introduction. Once the bill is submitted with signatures of the author and any coauthors, the House and Senate staff take steps so that the bill is introduced during the next available floor session.

23 The Third Phase: The Committee Process

24 Committee Work After a bill is introduced, it is sent to the relevant committee in each chamber. If there is any policy, it is typically sent to a policy committee first. If there are requests for spending, or there is a cost to implement the bill, the bill must also go through a finance committee.

25 Committee Work At this point, we reconnect with members of the relevant committees. There is now a bill to work with, and we try to resolve any concerns and build support during these meetings. We also meet with the bill author and the committee chair about setting a hearing for the bill.

26 Committee Deadlines Generally speaking, the committee process has deadlines. They are like funnels for narrowing the number of “live” bills for the session. There are three deadlines, which are typically in March and are in three successive weeks. The first two deadlines are the dates which policy bills must move out of policy committees. The third deadline relates to bills with fiscal issues moving out of fiscal committees. HOWEVER, the deadline policies are not necessarily the same from year to year, and there are some exceptions. In addition, even if a bill is “dead”, nothing is really dead until the end of the session!

27 Committee Hearings Prior to a hearing, we organize people to testify in support of a bill (or against a bill we oppose). They may include: Legal Services attorneys; Clients; People from community-based organizations; or People from state agencies or other branches of government. During a hearing, we often testify and answer questions about legislation we’ve initiated and on legislation we oppose. Before, during and after a hearing, we are still working with other lobbyists, agencies and groups to resolve differences.

28 Committee Hearing Outcomes
The bill gets a favorable vote with the same language it had when it entered the committee. The bill gets a favorable vote, but with amendments. The bill is defeated in committee – it is probably dead for the session. The bill author “lays the bill on the table” – which is like putting it on hold in the place it’s at, prior to any voting. The bill is not heard in the committee.

29 The Fourth Phase: On to the Floor!

30 Waiting for Floor Debate
Once a bill has passed out of committee, it is given its “second reading.” After second reading, both the House and Senate have a list of bills that are awaiting floor debate and vote. In the Senate, that list is called the “General Orders.” In the House, it is called the “General Register.”

31 Moving Toward Debate and Vote
On the approximate day a bill will be heard, a bill may move to a special calendar for consideration that day (or another day, depending upon the schedule that day) In the Senate, there is no special calendar. The Senate meets in a “committee of the whole,” and the bills for any particular day are selected before the committee session starts. In the House, a bill will move to the “Calendar for the Day.”

32 Floor Debate In the Senate, while the full Senate is in the committee of the whole, the bill is discussed and amendments can be offered. In the House, once the bill is called from the Calendar of the Day, the bill is discussed and amendments can be offered.

33 What are we doing prior to and during a floor debate?
We continue to meet with legislators about the bill or issue. During a floor session we can send a note in to a legislator to speak outside the chamber, or we can communicate electronically. In many cases, we prepare fact sheets for legislators to take with them. We also continue to work with other groups who support or oppose the bill to continue to try and resolve differences. We also keep an eye out for amendments!

34 What is “germaneness?” Under House and Senate Rules, an amendment must be “germane”, or related, to the underlying bill before it can be considered. The determination of what is germane is made by the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate.

35 Third Reading and Vote In the Senate, once the Committee of the Whole recommends that a bill pass, it is given its third reading. The bill is debated, but no amendments can be offered. At the end of debate, a vote is taken – the bill either passes the body or it is defeated.

36 Third Reading and Vote In the House, a bill is also given its third reading. The bill may be debated, but again, no amendments may be offered. After debate finishes, the House votes on the bill. Either body may pass a bill “first” – except for some fiscal bills which must originate in the House. Once the bill passes one body, it is sent to the other chamber.

37 Consideration by the other body
The other body may amend a bill that has passed the other chamber. In other words, if the Senate passes a bill first and sends it to the House, the House can amend it and send it back to the Senate. Eventually, the other body votes on the bill received from the other chamber, then sends it back to the original body.

38 Conference Committee If the bills aren’t identical after passing both chambers, a conference committee is set up to work out the differences. The committee consists of members from both House and Senate, and is usually 3-5 members from each. During this time, we work with committee members and the bill authors to keep in favorable language and eliminate or keep out unfavorable language.

39 Conference Committee When the Conference Committee reaches resolution, they prepare a report that contains the agreed-upon language. It is signed by the committee members, unless they refuse to sign. The conference report is taken up in each body, and members vote on whether to approve the conference report (and thus the bill).

40 The Fifth Phase: The Governor

41 Action by the Governor Once presented to the governor, he can sign the bill, veto the bill, line-item veto the bill or pocket veto the bill. We begin working with the Governor’s staff early on in the session on issues advaced by Legal Services, or issues of interest to Legal Services. This can include state agency bills which become “governor’s initiatives” upon the Governor’s approval as a legislative idea.

42 What if there’s a veto? The bill is returned to the legislature.
The bill stays on the floor, waiting for debate in either chamber. In some cases, another bill is created, introduced, heard, debated and voted on after the veto. To override the Governor’s veto, there must be a two-thirds majority in each body.

43 Once a bill is signed….. Once a bill is signed, LSAP begins to prepare any training, education and publications that need to be completed. We prepare summaries of new laws for our attorneys and the public, and work with our attorneys and other groups to provide trainings to understand and implement the law. In some cases, there is a working group organized to implement the law.

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