Becoming a Citizen Lobbyist, a How-To (Part 3 - Getting a Bill Authored)
The most important thing to know about getting a bill authored is that you'll want to start early. Ideally, a few months before the legislative session begins.
Figure out what your bill is. Do you need an entirely new law? Do you need to change existing language? How has this issue been addressed in the past? Has it been controversial?
It may be a good idea to have some informational meetings with individuals who know about the area and/or have recently been involved with it. This could be advocacy or nonprofit organizations, key individuals (legislators, lobbyists, grassroots organizers), and other interested parties.
Next, you'll need to figure out who your chief authors could be. You'll want them to be from the majority party in their chamber and they get bonus points if they sit on the main committee with subject matter jurisdiction. Extra gold star if they have a leadership position on said committee.
Meet with your potential authors and talk to them about why this is an important issue they'll want to take on. This is where everything you learned in Part 2 of our How-To Series will come in handy because you'll use the same approach when wooing a legislator to be a chief author on your bill. Be prepared, anticipate questions, and make the case for their support.
Getting a Bill Drafted
The good news here is that you don't have to sweat understanding exactly how to write legislation -- there's a team for that. Revisors are nonpartisan government staff with legal degrees and expertise in writing bills. They are located on the 7th floor of the State Office Building and are an extremely knowledgeable bunch.
If your bill is something very straighforward, you can ask your author for their authorization to ask the revisor to draft the bill. You can find the list of revisors and their subject matter expertise here. With your author's permission, email the revisor and copy the author's Legislative Assistant with a request to draft the bill.
If your bill is more complicated, work with your author to schedule a meeting with the revisor and other necessary legislative staff (there are researchers, fiscal analysts, and all sorts of other experts whose job it is to help develop good bills) to collaboratively work on drafting your bill.
Getting a Bill Processed
When your bill is done being drafted, it will be printed and bound with what are called "jackets" -- coversheets signed by bill authors. There will be two jackets for each bill: One for the House and one for the Senate. This makes them companions.
Pick up your jackets from the Revisor's office and have your chief author sign first. Then, you'll walk around to gather signatures from other authors who want to be part of your bill. The House allows for up to 35 authors. The Senate limits at five authors.
When you're considering your additional authors, think about how your bill will best be served. Some thoughts:
It's always good to have bipartisan support if possible
Try to prioritize authors who sit on the committees with jurisdiction over the bill
If the bill pertains to a particular geographic area or interest group, you may want to pick authors from that area or with a nexus to that interest group
Once you've got all your signatures, take the jackets and put them in the hopper. This is the literal name of the basket outside the Speaker's office where you drop your bill. It looks like this in case you were wondering.
From there, bills are processed and introduced when chambers are next in session. Your bill will get a bill number and be referred to a committee. If you're looking for more detail on this process, visit the state's website which has a great step-by-step of how it all works.
If you end up wanting to add on authors later, that's easy to do with the help of a legislator's assistant (one of the million reasons to be nice to them, always!).
In our next post, we'll talk about navigating a bill through the committee process. Reach out anytime with questions -- we're here to help!