In last week’s article, I articulated my support for the proposal to change House rules so that all bills receive a hearing in committee. I strongly believe in the principle that each proposal should receive an on-the-record vote so the constituents of each Representative will know where their legislator stands on each issue.
It has been my challenge to reconcile this belief with the fact that as a Government Modernization Committee Chairman, it is my responsibility to filter the good and bad legislation and give the good legislation a hearing in committee.
The Government Modernization Committee is the destination point for legislation that seeks to modernize and streamline government. I enjoy working with bills that seek to accomplish this goal and usually give them a quick hearing and our committee sends them off to the full House with our support.
Legislation that conflicts with previous modernization reforms, however, is also assigned to the committee. Under the current system, it is regarded as my responsibility to stop this bad legislation. Simply denying a hearing to these bills would be the easy way out. Instead of taking this approach, I have attempted to work with the authors of the bills to understand their reasons for their sponsorship of bills. My practice is to work with the author to refine the proposal and potentially use their bill to actually advance new modernization concepts. In fact, earlier this year, a bill that started out as an effort to reverse an important efficiency reform successfully implemented one of the most important pieces of the year’s modernization agenda.
This process is time consuming, but it has allowed me to build stronger relationships with those legislators. Most of the time, the legislators appreciate the fact that their bill was not simply rejected, and they are usually willing to work together to substantively address their concerns without reversing previous modernization and efficiency reforms.
If I were to deny these bills a hearing, I would miss the opportunity to build these relationships and to advance additional reforms.
In my three years as chairman, I can’t recall a single time when a legislator refused to work with me on addressing the issues of concern in their bill. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone whose bill was rejected by our committee who felt there was not an attempt to give the bill life.
I believe there are several committee chairmen who follow this approach. They take their jobs as gatekeeper seriously, but do not reject legislation out of hand.
Of course, there are also chairmen who invest little time and effort into analyzing the true merits of a proposal. All too often they simply take the word of the bureaucracy that would be affected by a proposal and kill the bill based on feedback from the bureaucracy. This kills creative proposals that would inject a new approach. In my opinion, this is the lazy way to chair a committee and is one of the primary reasons why the status quo is maintained.
Thank you for reading this week's update. Next week I plan to provide an update on the recent state and county redistricting processes.