Friday, October 18, 2013

How a bill becomes a loss


By Bill Kraus

What you learned in your civics course back when civics courses were offered in our public schools was how a bill became a law.

A bill was introduced.

If it merited further attention, the bill was assigned to a legislative committee.

The committee held public hearings on the bill and passed it on to the Legislature as whole.

The Legislature debated the bill, and if it got a majority of votes, sent it on to the governor for approval or veto.

If approved or if a veto was overridden by the Legislature, the bill became law.

This process is no longer followed on bills which are controversial or partisanized.

Let’s take a couple of bills that fall into one of these categories.

The bills to reform the redistricting system have been sent to the appropriate (or less appropriate in one case) committees. The chairs of those committees have on their own initiatives or under orders announced there will be no hearings.

If the chairs or the bill assigners relent, and the bills do get a hearing and get to the “floor” for a vote, they will not get a majority, because the votes by the Republican majorities against them have been pledged in advance and outnumber the Democratic minorities that have pledged to vote for them.

The move to reform the recall system has not been put in bill form yet. When it is, the process will be just as automatic--did I mention that the debates on these bills are all rhetorical and futile and no votes will change?--all the Republicans will vote against tightening up the process and all Democrats will vote for it.

Neither side has to think about their votes. All is preordained.

This, of course, is all inside politics to which only insiders pay attention, but one does wonder if this is what the voters expected from the people they elected to the Legislature.

I, for one, expected more openmindedness and thoughtful consideration, even unpredictability.

I would like a thoughtful response to the question, “Why are you for or against these reforms?” I would like legislators to deal with the merits or defects of the proposals.

Under the new system, if I could elicit an honest answer, which is more and more doubtful, the reason would have to do with who proposed or opposed the bills than why or what those merits and defects are.

And, the final nails in the coffin. I have a lot of trouble believing that not a single Democrat got the message from the thousand of Democratic voters who showed them in the recall fiasco that as much as they disliked the governor they disliked no fault recalls more. On the other side of the aisle, it is hard to accept the fact that only Senator Dale Schultz has noticed what the maps make so clear, that gerrymandering exists and has the deleterious effect of elevating the importance of primaries and diminishing that of the general elections.

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