Legislators are in session and it's game on. Keep our eye on the ball.
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The 55th Legislative Session in Arizona opened just 27 days ago and between the House and the Senate, there have been 1,647 bills introduced. I would venture to guess that most people can’t name five of these bills.
Oh sure, some of it is totally innocuous. I can’t imagine that there is going to be any heated committee discussion regarding Arizona HB2806 which seeks to name Sierra Vista the hummingbird capital of Arizona. Good on you, Sierra Vista!
However, there are some bills that can have far-reaching effects.
There’s one thing folks need to understand about the legislative process. Most legislators do not get ideas for bills randomly in the shower like we think of things we need at the grocery store. Bills are often drafted after outreach from constituents who want legislators to fix something they feel is broken or unjust.
There’s a downside to this. It results in a lot of potentially harmful laws as legislators don’t realize the ramifications of the law. It sounds reasonable coming from the mouth of a citizen, who most likely presents the issue in a biased manner in order to gain support, and so off to be drafted the bill goes.
There’s an easy way to keep an eye on what’s happening. It just takes a little time.
The Arizona State Legislature has a simple website that holds all their information (azleg.gov). Under the Bills tab on the menu, the Bill Info section will give you a list of every single bill being considered by the people you elected to make decisions on them. You can scan the bills for anything that may catch your eye. Clicking on the bill link gets you to where you can find the following info:
- Who sponsored, and potentially is co-sponsoring, the bill
- The text of the bill. If it changes current law, the tracked changes are visible
- What committee if has been appointed to and when
- What changes to the bill have been made in committee
- How all committee members voted on the bill
- When it will be heard and voted on again
- When it will be or was passed to the Senate, House, or Governor
This is our process. It is called public policy because we get to participate in it. Yet, we don’t. We simply complain about the horrible job lawmakers are doing once a bill gets signed by the Governor of Arizona.
Simply, legislators work for us. How would you feel if your boss gave you no direction on how to do your job, never met with you for a review, complained to everyone about your poor performance, and then fired you without any chance of you taking corrective action. Don’t do this to your legislators. Hold them accountable.
To do this though, you have to pay attention. These bills move fast. Really fast. If you find something that you feel strongly about (or maybe it just irritates you) you can email your lawmaker. All their email addresses are right on the state’s website.
Remember that this is a public process and we have the right to be involved.
Every House and Senate Committee meeting is open to the public. Every single one. Not only that but you have the right to address your legislators about the bill they are considering before they vote to pass the bill or not. They have to listen to what you have to say. Of course, listening and hearing are two different things so don’t be surprised if legislators look like they are drafting their grocery list while you speak.
Here’s what’s great about speaking in front of a committee: it’s recorded. It’s also called “testifying in front of the committee” and that sounds kind of cool. Your comments become record. Tread lightly and carefully there. But, it removed any question that committee members were not aware of how a bill may impact people. You told them. That is your job as a citizen so that they can do their job as a legislator.
It has passed time for us all to sit back and complain after these bills become laws and go into effect. Your time to be involved is now. If you don’t take it, I best not hear you complaining about the law later.