I remember from my middle school civics class the flow chart of how a bill becomes law. It seemed like a simple progression of events. However, after working in advocacy for a number of years, the passing of a bill into a law is anything but a simple logical process. It can be overwhelming and convoluted and requires much hand holding. The metaphor “how the sausage is made” is often used when referring to bill making, as it tends to accurately describe the slow moving and arduous process.
There are plenty of shortfalls or inconsistencies that exist inside the bill-making process. A perfect example of these happened in a recent indictment of one Illinois legislator where it was uncovered that bills were assigned to subcommittees that had no members. Which – when you consider the fact that a bill’s content can dramatically change during a committee hearing or floor debate –was a pretty significant oversight. Legislators and participants in the bill-making process must be mindful that a strong endorsement of a specific bill requires following it through its lifecycle, as often a bill’s original intent is far different than what becomes law.
There are a number of ways to impact the progression of a bill to ensure it achieves your desired intent. Illinois House of Representative Grant Wehrli reports that when constituents have opinions on bills, emailing does have an impact. However, when he is receiving hundreds of emails in a day, they can lose priority – especially form emails that carry very little weight. Representative Wehrli suggests making a phone call or, even better, request a face-to-face meeting to truly get your message across.
Speaking of face to face – the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is making a trip to Springfield on March 18 to meet with legislators and to make sure our business community positions are heard. Touted as Advocacy Day, this opportunity is open to the community to join.
In addition to emails, phone call and in-person visits, witness slips are another way to weigh in on a particular bill. Witness slips are a vital piece of the legislative process as before a bill is heard in committee, the chairperson will read submitted witness slips and whether they support or oppose the bill. This helps inform legislators as to where Illinoisans and organizations stand, allowing them to make informed decisions when voting.
Finally, if there are bills that are important to your organization or business, take an extra step to identify and track them through the Illinois General Assembly website at ilga.gov/mylegislation.
While our legislative process is not as simple as the textbook flow chart, we still have the power to impact bills as they become laws and make our voice heard in Springfield. While we are here to advocate for you at the Chamber, we encourage you to join on the journey.