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Legislative Process
West Virginia University School of Law
Hardesty, David C.

Legislative Process-Hardesty, Spring 2010
 
Players
*        Legislators (House = 2 year terms, Senate = 6 year terms)
s Self-interest – Getting reelected, getting elected to higher office, prestige, fame, importance, money and influence current and future, rent seeking.
s Strategic voting – compromise, logrolling, omnibus bills
s Apparently mostly motivated by constituent interests
§ Pork barrel politics
§ Committee appointments to enable rent-seeking
*        Executive (President and agencies)
s President exerts substantial influence over the political agenda.
s Bargaining Resources – The veto; agency favors; party and campaigning favors; agenda-related resources; information generation, money, pardons, commission seats.
*        Courts, especially Supreme Court (Interpretation)
*        Interest groups and their lobbyists and members (diffuse or narrowly focused)
s Grassroots
s Corporations
s Coalitions
s Voters with shared interests, like women, minorities, Christians
s Manufacture of and Distribution of Information
s Provide lawmakers with funds and possibility of future jobs
*        Two different theories about why we want the legislation to jump through a bunch of hoops.
s Republicanism – what we should do is structure the government in ways that enforce deliberation.
s Liberal theory – we all know that things do not all occur in response to the public interest and therefore we should fear the government and we should make it difficult for legislation to actually be enacted.
*        Note on How a Bill Becomes a Federal Law pg. 25
*        4 aspects of policy making:
s setting the agenda
s specifying alternatives from which a policy choice is to be made
s choosing among the alternatives; and
s implementing the decision
*        colloquies – rehearsed questions posed to the bill’s sponsor in order to build a legislative record on some issues.
 
Inertia principle of bills
*        Bills are inert – they are kept bottled up in committee until an outside force gets them moving:
s Public demand
s Lobbying
s Effective sponsor
s Meritorious or clearly needed legislation
*        As a bill gets closer to passage, its momentum makes it harder to kill or amend
s Energy spent early in the process is more efficient that energy expended late in the process.
s Advantage of early lobbying – fewer legislators involved, so fewer people to persuade
 
Limits on Legislative action
*        Bicameralism requirement – laws must be approved by both chambers
s Revenue bills must originate in House – Origination Clause
*        Presentment requirement – laws must be signed by president or veto overridden
*        Constitutional limits
s Due process and Equal Protection
s Federalism
s Separation of powers and delegation
s Time and Manner clause for elections
s First Amendment freedom of speech
s Equal protection
*        Chamber rules – determine how bills are treated
*        Election and fundraising needs
*        Interests of constituents
 
Passing Bills
*        Proponents convince legislator to introduce a draft bill
*        Bill is sent to one or more committees by the presiding officer of the legislative chamber.
s Decisions about where to send bills made on the “weight of the bill test”
*        Committees are very influential; they can kill bills by ignoring them
*        Theories of Committees
s Committees allow members to specialize and develop expertise = division of labor
s Committees are tools of the majority party.
s Chairman is key player on committee. 
§ Chairman can refuse to hold hearings or refer bill to hostile sub-committee.
§ Majority of House can by-pass chairman by filing discharge petition to bring measure to the floor.
s If a committee moves forward on a bill:
§ It may hold hearings
§ Meet to mark up the bill – members of committee amend original draft before sending it to the floor
§ If committee approves a bill, they write up a report
·         Elements of report – Bill’s exact language, procedural and substantive background, section-by-se

     Budget is revenue bill so has to originate in House.
*        Definitions
s Discretionary Spending – funded by appropriations bills. 1/3 of total budget. Includes defense, education, government operations, and law enforcement.
s Authorization – Establish the programs in separate substantive legislation that enacts purposes, guidelines, and structures. Authorizing committee: chief policymakers in regards to specific programs.
s Appropriations – Funding authorized programs. Appropriations committee: watchdogs, forcing justification of spending each year
s Obligations – Incurred commitments to pay money by agencies
s Outlay – When money is actually spent
s Mandatory Spending – will be automatically allocated unless Congress directs otherwise. 
s Tax Subsidy or Expenditure – “a revenue or loss attributable to provisions of federal law that allow a special exclusion or deduction from income, or that provide a special credit, preferential tax rate, or deferral of tax liability.”
s Impoundment – president’s refusal to spend money Congress appropriated. When challenged the President generally looses.
*        History of budgeting since 1974 Budget Act is to take power away from President and give it back to congress, especially by centralizing budget process in Congress with committees and concurrent budget resolution, and by creating own experts in Congressional Budget Office.
s Noteworthy aspects of the 1974 Act:
§ Its emphasis on the development of information about the federal budget and creation of the Congressional Budget office to produce that data;
The establishment of two new budget committees