If you have been reading my SLATE articles this year, you know that I am focusing on ISBA’s resolution process. I am breaking that discussion into four main topics. In the May issue of the SLATE, I wrote about the actual resolution process – who can submit them, when they are submitted, and the process they go through before being presented to the full membership. In the August issue, I wrote about voting on the resolutions – who can vote, how to vote, debating the resolutions, and the business session. In this issue I will focus on how a resolution that has passed the ISBA membership is turned into legislation. In February, I will write the last article in this series and discuss what happens when one of our resolutions actually becomes a law.
Question: What Happens As Soon As the Business Session is Over?
Answer: ISBA staff begins working on the passed resolutions. We determine what action, if any, is required. Some resolutions will require that we write legislation, some will require that we support legislation, and some will require that we oppose legislation.
Question: How Do We Determine if We Need to Craft Legislation?
Answer: The outcome of each resolution requires a different action from ISBA staff. Some resolutions only require ISBA to oppose legislation. An example is a resolution stating ISBA will oppose any legislation which will allow for any further tax cuts that could impact the finances of the school district. In this case, ISBA would oppose any such legislation that may be brought forward, but we would not craft any legislation.
Some resolutions require support from ISBA, but do not require us to craft legislation. An example would be a resolution which states that ISBA would support increased funding to local school districts. All funding legislation is crafted by the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC). JFAC debates and votes on the funding legislation. There is no opportunity for outside entities to craft this kind of legislation. Instead, we would work with members of JFAC to help them understand the importance of increased funding and to assure that some level of that is added to the funding legislation. Again, we would not write the legislation, but work with those who do. This would be supporting the resolution the membership passed.
I have also seen resolutions that require ISBA staff to work with another State agency, but did not require legislation. For instance, we currently have a resolution dealing with the sick leave payout for employees in districts on four day work weeks. We are working with the Public Employees Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) to see if we can find a solution. This may or may not eventually require legislation, but, at this point, it does not. We hope we can resolve it through the rulemaking process with PERSI.
Most remaining resolutions require that we craft legislation to support the intent of the resolution. That process is a little more complex and time consuming.
Question: What is the First Step in Writing Legislation?
Answer: In almost all cases, we ask our attorneys to craft the actual legislation. We do this because they understand the ramifications of certain wording in the law. We discuss with them the debate we heard on the floor of the Business Session – both pro and con – so they understand the intent and concerns that were expressed.
Our attorneys begin crafting the language of the legislation. They oftentimes work with the attorneys at Legislative Services as well as the State Department of Education. In doing so, we strive for legislation that is legally defensible and still meets the intent of the resolution.
We discuss and revise the legislation until we have a product that passes the scrutiny of our attorneys and still meets the intent of the resolution.
Question: What is a Sponsor and where do you find one?
Answer: Our next step is to find a sponsor for the legislation. In order for us to have the legislation printed, we need to have a legislative sponsor. Only a Legislator can bring legislation forward. No other organization can do that. So, in order to have our legislation printed, we need to secure a legislative sponsor.
We try to secure a legislative sponsor prior to the beginning of the year or, at the very least, prior to the beginning of the legislative session. We ask the submitting school district(s) to help us find both a Senator and Representative that would be willing to sponsor the legislation. We ask for both a Senator and a Representative because the legislation will need to be heard in both chambers. We ask the submitting school district(s) to contact their local legislators because they are more likely to sponsor legislation that comes from their local school districts and addresses issues impacting their legislative districts.
Getting the legislation printed Once we obtain sponsors for the legislation, we take it to the legislative bill drafters in the Legislative Services Office. They take the legislation we have drafted and put it into “bill” form. A “bill” is just the formal term for the actual legislation. The bill contains a Statement of Purpose and a Fiscal Note, both of which we also craft. The bill is given an RS (routing slip) number and returned to the sponsor. Even though ISBA staff took the legislation to the bill drafter, they cannot return it to us. It can only be returned to the sponsor.
Once it is returned to the sponsor, we work with the sponsor and the Chair of either the House or Senate Education Committee (Committee) to schedule the RS for a print hearing.
Presenting the bill, debate, and vote Once the bill is printed, it comes back before the same Committee that agreed to print the bill. This is when ISBA staff “presents” the bill. Essentially, we go through the bill section by section and explain to members of the Committee what is contained in the bill. At the same time, we discuss the need for the bill and what the bill will do should it be passed. We also include information about ISBA, who we represent, and explain that the legislation is an outcome of the resolution that was passed by the membership. The Committee will ask questions of the staff person presenting the bill. In addition, this is the time that anyone else can sign up to testify on the bill, either in favor of or in opposition to the bill. After all testimony has been taken, ISBA staff then has the opportunity to make closing remarks. When I testify I always try to address the concerns, if any, that were raised in opposition to the bill or to answer any questions that came during the other testimony. Finally, I always ask for their positive vote. Many people forget that part of testimony – you always have to ask for their support.
Once we are done with our closing comments, the Committee will debate among themselves. Motions are made, and then they vote on the bill. If it passes out of the Committee, it will go to the floor of the House or Senate for consideration and, if passed in that chamber, the same process will be followed in the opposite chamber.
One last hurdle If the bill passes both chambers, there is one last hurdle. The Governor needs to sign the bill. Of course the Governor can also always veto the bill instead. Alternately, the Governor can let the bill become law without his signature.
If the Governor signs the bill or allows the bill to become law without his signature, the next phase is implementation. I will discuss that step of the process in my February article.