Thursday, February 13, 2014

Understanding the Legislative Process - Simple Steps To Use During the Legislative Session

I am writing this blog today because I understand people believe Oklahoma has passed a Common Core bill.

When I first became involved in the legislative process, I knew NOTHING about how a bill was signed into law other than what I had heard on School House Rock in middle school!  Unfortunately, I assume everyone on the ROPE list knows at least what I know now. I am sorry for that!  Please let me go back to my role as teacher, and provide some information I hope will be helpful to those of you just starting out on the journey of informed and attentive citizen!

I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)
I'm Just a Bill (Schoolhouse Rock!)

Of course, this video outlines the process of a bill at the federal level, but it's the same basic process at the state level.  Below is a very abbreviated version of how this process works at the state level, but I am hoping it will give you an understanding of how LONG this process takes.

Representative Gus Blackwell's Common Core bill (HB3167) did pass out of the Administrative Rules Committee Wednesday (2/12), but that is only the second step in a nearly 8 step process, with lots of Amendment and Conference steps in there we won't discuss right now.  If you would like to learn more, please visit "How An Idea Becomes A Law" on the Oklahoma Legislative Website.  In addition, here is the link to the overall legislative calendar that provides all the deadlines in the process so you'll have an idea what will happen when.

In order to give you just a very abbreviated look at the process, I have come up with the steps below and the points at which we'll have to have contact with our legislators.  This way, when we send out an alert asking you to call, you'll know where the bill is in the process. Please note that the process is the same for BOTH House and Senate.  (PS: Now that the House has a new Speaker, the Speaker may decide to change Committee assignments, so you'll have to use the link for 'Committees' to determine if there have been changes - if we don't specify)

Step 1. A bill is written

Step 2. The bill is assigned to a Committee.  There are a NUMBER of Committees.   Here are the House Committees, here are the Senate Committees.

Step 3.  The Committee Chair decides to hear - or not hear - the bill, depending upon the Chairman.  This is why it's important to pressure the Senate to hear Common Core bills in Committees.

Step 4. If the bill isn't heard, it's dead for the session (year) 
4a.  If the bill IS heard and it doesn't pass, it's dead for the session 

Step 5. If the bill DOES pass committee, it may or may NOT be put on a calendar to go to the floor where all legislators vote.  This applies to BOTH House and Senate.

5a. In the House, the Calendar Committee decides if a bill reaches the floor
5b. In the Senate, Floor Leader Senator Mike Schultz decides not only to which Committee a bill is assigned, but whether or not it reaches the floor for a vote.

Step 6. If the bill gets to the floor, it is voted on by that chamber (House or Senate). If it passes, it goes to the opposite chamber when bills switch chambers on March 13.

Step 7. March 13th, House Bills go to Senate, Senate Bills go to the House and the whole process STARTS all over again from step1.

Step 8. Once a bill has passed BOTH the House AND the Senate, it goes to the Governor for her signature - the final step before a bill becomes a law.

So you can see, this is a LONG PROCESS and we have to eat this elephant ONE VOTE at a time by making calls every step of the way! If the bill comes from the House, we'd make calls;

  1. To House Committee Chair to hear bill
  2. To Committee Members to vote it out of committee
  3. To Calendar Committee to have bill sent to the House floor
  4. To have Representatives vote our way when the bill comes to the floor.
  5. To Senate Floor Leader to assign the bill to a Committee
  6. To Senate Committee Chair to hear the bill
  7. To Senate Committee members to vote it out of committee
  8. To Senate Floor Leader to assign the bill to the Senate floor
  9. To have Senators vote our way when the bill comes to the floor
  10. To have Governor Fallin sign the bill (should it make it through both houses)

Hopefully, I haven't missed anything!

I know there are many more things you'd like to do in a day than follow this whole process (I know I would and my kids think EXACTLY the same thing FOR me!), but this is a process that only goes from February to May.  The rest of the year is ours!  Please learn this process - it's an integral part of good citizenship anyway and, as usual, we could really use your help!

Thank you for all you do for our country and our kids,

Jenni White

ONE MORE THING:  Today, Lynn had an opportunity to speak with Governor Fallin at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.  When she told her she did not want Common Core in Oklahoma, the Governor replied that she didn't want them either WHICH IS WHY THE STATE HAS OUR OWN OKLAHOMA ACADEMIC STANDARDS.  

Apparently, those who work for our Governor have our Governor fooled into believing the Oklahoma State Department of Education has adopted Oklahoma standards.  This could be further from the truth.  I have been able to document that Oklahoma's Math and English Standards are Common Core.  I have also been able to document that Oklahoma's Science Standards ARE the National Science Standards.  I have even been able to document that Oklahoma History Standards follow the C3 (National History Standards) almost to a fault.  Please familiarize yourselves with these FACTS.  Look up the links in our research yourself to make sure I am being accurate.  Then, tell the Governor herself,