WHAT DOES THE LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE DO? ORIENTATION FOR NEW MEMBERS OF LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE 2011 The Wyoming Library Association (WLA) Legislative Committee is responsible for monitoring, initiating, researching and coordinating legislative efforts for libraries in Wyoming. Although activities are primarily focused on the activity of the state legislature, the committee also has a responsibility to be aware of national and local issues affecting specific library types as well as entities within state government that can impact specific library types. Since each type of library has a unique political structure in which it operates, these activities will vary in relationship to type of library. BYLAWS – DIRECTION FROM WLA Section 2. Legislative Committee (A) The Legislative Committee is responsible for initiating and promoting legislation beneficial to Wyoming libraries, disseminating accurate and timely information about state and federal issues affecting Wyoming libraries, and educating the Wyoming library community and its advocates with respect to the legislative process. (B) The Legislative Committee shall consist of at least nine (9) members representing the various sections, geographical areas of the State, and types of libraries. The Wyoming Library Association President, the State Librarian (or designee when necessary), and the ALA Councilor shall act as non-voting, ex-officio members. The appointed members of the committee shall serve four-year terms, no term limits. The terms shall be staggered so that at least three (3) members shall be appointed every year. (C) The Legislative Committee shall take direction and advice from the Association lobbyist on how to best manage library legislative issues. (D) The Legislative Committee shall annually review the Lobbyist’s effectiveness in meeting the Association’s goals. This evaluation shall be given to the Executive Board for its consideration. (E) The Legislative Committee shall advise the Executive Board in making its decisions as to the selection or retention of the Association's lobbyist. However, the Executive Board shall make all final hiring or retention decisions. OVERVIEW WLA Executive Board The Legislative Committee reports to the WLA Executive Board. The presiding president of WLA serves as an ex-officio member of the committee. To assist the president-elect in learning the duties they may have as president, they are also invited to meetings to observe. Lobbyist WLA Executive Board contracts with a professional lobbyist. The lobbyist works closely with the Legislative Committee. Communication to WLA from information that is provided by the lobbyist is the responsibility of the Legislative Committee. Wyoming State Library (WSL) The State Librarian sits ex-officio on the committee. WSL is a division of the Administration and Information Division of State Government (A&I). WSL funding comes partially from the state and is part of the A&I budget. The state library receives and manages federal monies, such as Library Service and Technology Act (LSTA) funds. The director of A&I is the immediate supervisor for the State Librarian. WSL has two primary roles: to support state government in their research and reference needs and the extension and development of library services throughout the state. Activities include the state publications depository, training programs and management of WYLD. The primary support provided by the Legislative Committee is directed by the State Librarian. Each year the overall state budget is monitored, specifically any line items that may affect the Wyoming State Library’s budget and impact on statewide services. Other Special Libraries There are several other special libraries throughout the state. Very rarely will there be issues that the Legislative Committee will be involved with in relationship to these libraries legislative needs. University of Wyoming (UW) Libraries UW libraries are the responsibility of the Dean of University Libraries. UW Libraries receive their funding as part of the UW budget from the state. The UW budget and other legislation are monitored each year as they affect UW Libraries. The Dean of University Libraries is a politically powerful position. The primary support provided by the Legislative Committee is directed by the Dean of University Libraries. The Dean will bring to the committee any specific issues or direction that is needed in terms of support from the library community. Community College Libraries There are seven community college library directors. Community colleges are governed by the Community College Commission. The state legislature establishes funding for community colleges with recommendations from the commission. Community college library funding falls within each college’s budget. Community College Library Directors may or may not be politically powerful positions within their college and in their community. The community college librarians will bring to the committee any specific issues or direction that is needed in terms of support from the library community. Public Libraries Public libraries in Wyoming are governed and funded by the county commission of each county. By state statute, the county commissioners appoint a citizens governing board that hires the county librarian, approves expenditures and sets policy for the county library. County Librarians are politically powerful positions within their counties. In some ways, public libraries have the broadest variety of possible legislation that could affect their operations. Any legislation that relates to cities, towns and counties has possible repercussions. Financial legislation, meeting law legislation, wages and hour legislation, funding to counties and more may have an effect on public libraries. There are also several laws that relate directly to the establishment and operation of public libraries. The primary support provided by the Legislative Committee is directed by public library directors with input from the State Librarian. The public librarians will bring to the committee any specific issues or direction that is needed in terms of support from the library community. Public libraries are also the most likely to seek sponsors for specific bills. Examples would be the successful public library endowment bill or the unsuccessful times in the past they have sought legislation to set up public library taxing districts. School Librarians Elementary, Junior High and High School librarians have a much different political climate in which to operate than any of the other libraries. Rarely is a school librarian considered politically powerful within their school, their school district or on a statewide basis in the education realm. There are many, many more layers in their chain of command. In addition, educators that teach in the classroom often have more prestige than those who are in what the education world may consider “support” roles. Most legislation that may affect school librarians is actually legislation that is related to education. The Legislative Committee does not track legislation that is considered to be education related unless there is a specific portion that mentions or targets school libraries or school librarians. The primary support provided by the Legislative Committee is directed by school librarians. The decisions and interpretation of laws made by the State Department of Education have a greater impact on school libraries and school librarians than much of the legislation. Working with the WLA President and others, the committee encourages appointments to key committees where the knowledge and expertise of a school librarian will make a difference. ACTIVITIES Advocacy training The American Library Association has excellent training material on their website regarding advocacy training. New members of the committee should Google ALA Advocacy and follow the links to learn about advocacy for their specific library type. Please feel free to talk to any member of committee for direction or assistance. The person who represented your type of library in the past is also an excellent resource. Occasionally, the committee will conduct advocacy training for boards or act as an advocate in the political arena for a specific cause. Each representative is also responsible for encouraging, teaching and mentoring advocacy for the library type that they represent. Legislative Reception A reception for state legislators occurs every year during the legislative session. All librarians are encouraged to attend and all members of the committee should attend. Our lobbyist does a pre-reception meeting for librarians and trustees just prior to the reception to inform us of any issues and if there is a cohesive message we are working on conveying. The food is made by librarians and the event is held at the state library. A cash bar is provided. The WLA reception is considered one of the best events during the session due to the homemade food and the fact that the state library is close to the capitol. Tina Lyles, WSL Publications and Marketing Manager, coordinates the event with a small team of volunteer librarians, some local and some on the legislative committee. Strategic Planning The chair of the legislative committee may work with the committee to develop or complete strategic plans. Currently we have a strategic plan in place that is attached to this document. Any strategic plan developed by the legislative committee must be approved by the executive committee of WLA. The most current strategic plan is on the WLA website http://wyla.org/legislative/index.php . Research possible library legislation Committee members may be called on to do research regarding possible legislation that WLA is interested in proposing. The initial research will be a look at library literature to see what has been done with similar legislation in other parts of the United States. In addition, asking librarians who have served on the committee in the past and the State Librarian to see what research or work have been done in this area is also crucial. Research on Wyoming’s current statutes as they relate to the topic is important. The group doing the research should be cautious not to discuss the topic with any political entities in the state until the general research is reviewed by the committee. Once the group doing the research presents it to the committee and lobbyist, the committee would take their recommendation to the WLA executive board prior to moving forward. The Legislative Services Office (LSO) may have a wealth of information, but this office is only available to legislators. Once the WLA executive board gives the approval to move ahead, the committee, in consultation with the WLA Lobbyist, determines strategy for finding a legislator or multiple legislators to sponsor the bill. The process is handled by the lobbyist, with consultation and input from the legislative committee. GETTING A BILL INTO THE LEGISLATURE (FROM EQUALITY STATE POLICY CENTER WEBSITE) Bills Bills (proposed laws) are drafted at the request of legislators by Wyoming's Legislative Service Office, the nonpartisan agency which staffs the Legislature. Unlike most other states, which have longer legislative sessions, Wyoming's legislators do not have personal staffs or offices. Once a bill is drafted and approved by the sponsoring legislator(s), it is "jacketed" - placed in a special folder which will hold the bill and all the paperwork documenting its journey through the legislative process. No action on the bill can be taken without the official jacketed version, and during rowdy legislative debates in the not-so-distant past, legislators have been known to take off with the bill jacket and thereby halt any further consideration. The Wyoming Constitution requires that all revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives. Otherwise, a bill may be introduced in either the House or the Senate, depending on the bill sponsor or strategy considerations. Sometimes identical bills are introduced in both houses in hopes that at least one stays alive. Any type of bill may be introduced during the Wyoming Legislature's general sessions, held for 40 days every odd-numbered year. Introduction of a non-budget bill during the 20-day budget sessions, held every even- numbered year, requires a two-thirds vote of approval in the house of introduction. Committee Action It is the responsibility of the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate to assign a bill to a committee. This is usually a straightforward process, but sometimes bills do not fall into an obvious category, or are assigned to a different committee than one would expect for strategic reasons or because of unequal workloads. The committee chair has complete discretion over action on bills in his/her committee. The chair is not required to hear bills in the order assigned, or even to hear them at all. Committee meetings and the bills to be considered are posted on bulletin boards outside the House and Senate chambers, with notice varying from a few days to a few hours. The committee meetings are public, but the small committee meeting rooms, short notice, and overall pace of legislative action during the short sessions limits public participation. Usually, if a controversy is anticipated, committee chairs will attempt to schedule a larger room in another building and provide more notice of the hearing. Committees may make one of three recommendations on a bill: (1) "do pass"; (2) "do pass with amendments"; or (3) "do not pass." If a bill is heavily amended in committee, a substitute bill may be prepared and offered on the floor. A "do not pass" recommendation effectively kills a bill by sending it to the bottom of general file (see below); the same result can be achieved if the committee chair simply sits on the bill until it is too late for consideration on the floor. Beginning with the 1993-94 biennium, final committee votes on bills which were subsequently debated on the floor were printed in the legislative journals. Otherwise, votes in committee, even roll call votes, are not permanently recorded. After the session, they are left with the committee secretaries to be kept at home or thrown away. Floor Debate "General file" is the list of bills which have cleared committees and are awaiting consideration by the entire House or Senate. The Majority Floor Leader controls the order of general file, which may change from day to day. Wyoming's short legislative sessions usually guarantee that bills at the bottom of general file will die for lack of time; thus the Majority Floor Leader may single-handedly assure the demise of certain bills by putting them at the end of the list. A bill heard on the floor goes through three readings: Committee of the Whole, Second Reading, and Third Reading (Final Passage). These readings occur on consecutive days unless a bill is "laid back" or the legislators vote to suspend the rules. Committee of the Whole is designed to be a freewheeling debate where questions are answered and thoughts aired. Consequently, there are no time limits on debate or the number of times a legislator may speak. The bill may be amended - sometimes beyond recognition - yet no votes are recorded on the amendments. If the bill does not receive enough voice or standing votes at the end of Committee of the Whole debate to go on to second reading, a roll call vote is recorded. Second Reading is usually a mere formality, although amendments may be offered and voted on. There may be limits on the number of times a legislator may speak, and for how long. Roll call votes may be taken on amendments if a member requests them. The Wyoming Constitution requires that roll call votes be taken on final passage of a bill (the end of Third Reading). Roll call votes may also be taken on third reading amendments by request. Legislators may speak only twice on the same action and time limits may be set. Conference Committees Once a bill is approved in the house of origin, it must go through the same process all over again in the other house. If the bill passes both houses and the final two versions differ, the bill returns to the house of origin for a "concurrence" vote. If the house of origin does not concur with the version enacted by the second house, a conference committee is appointed to try to resolve the differences. The conference committee consists of three members from each house appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate; each set of three includes two members who voted for the bill and one who did not. (For budget bills, special conference committees with larger memberships are created.) The first conference committee is usually "bound" - it may only remove or alter amendments made by one house or the other. Subsequent "free" conference committees may make changes in the original bill. Each report from a conference committee must be voted on by both houses, starting with the house of origin. A bill may clear all the hurdles necessary to become law and falter at the very end because a conference committee cannot reach an acceptable compromise or simply runs out of time to try. Role of Legislative Committees Each house of the Wyoming Legislature has 12 "standing" committees - permanent committees covering specific subject areas. These include: Judiciary Appropriations Revenue Education Agriculture, Public Lands & Water Resources Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Transportation & Highways Minerals, Business & Economic Development Labor, Health & Social Services Rules & Procedure(s) Journal Following introduction of a bill, the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate refers the bill to one of the standing committees. As noted earlier, committees are not required to consider all bills referred to them, nor must they consider bills in the order referred. The committee chair controls what will be considered and when. Although bills technically cannot be killed in committee, they can be returned with a "do not pass" recommendation - which means they will not be brought up for debate - or held in committee until it is too late to bring them to the floor. The majority party of the Legislature controls the selection of committee chairs, so they are always members of the majority party. Now, and for most of Wyoming's history, the majority party is the Republican Party. The Republican legislative leadership chooses committee chairs from among Republican legislators, and each committee's membership is split along party lines according to the relative proportion of both parties' membership in the Legislature. For the 1997-98 biennium, most House committees had seven Republicans and two Democrats (the exceptions were Appropriations, with five Republicans and two Democrats; Journal, with one member from each party; and Rules & Procedures, with eight Republicans and three Democrats). All the Senate committees except Journal had three Republicans and two Democrats, with one from each party on the Journal Committee. Each party follows its own methods for choosing which members will be assigned to which committees. Legislators serving on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees usually do not have any other committee assignments, because of the heavier workload these committees carry. Other legislators generally serve on two or three committees. During the "interim" between legislative sessions, the counterpart House and Senate committees meet together as a joint interim committee, e.g., the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee (Rules and Journal excepted). The Management Council of the Legislature assigns each joint interim committee topics to study and draft legislation for during the interim. The joint interim committees hold meetings open to the public. This process usually results in bills for the next session sponsored by the joint interim committee. The Legislature may also established temporary or permanent select committees on special topics. For example, during this biennium, select committees were chosen to deal with school finance issues. Offices of the Legislature The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate are the top leadership positions in the House and Senate, respectively. These individuals and the rest of the leadership all belong to the majority party (currently Republican). The Speaker and President have a major role in selecting committee chairs and the majority party membership of each committee. As noted earlier, they also refer bills to committees; they select the members of conference committees; and they recognize legislators to speak during debate. (All legislators take turns presiding over Committee of the Whole.) The Speaker Pro Tempore and Vice President act in the absence of the Speaker or President, and in the past usually moved on to become Speaker or President at the next session. The imposition of term limits may disrupt this historical pattern, however. The Majority Floor Leader controls the order of general file (the list of bills reported back favorably from committees that are awaiting floor debate). This position is more powerful than it sounds because Wyoming's short legislative sessions do not allow enough time for debate of every bill on general file. The bills at the top of the list are debated and the ones at the bottom are not. The Majority Floor Leader may rearrange the list at will, so one day you may find a bill you are interested in near the top, and the next day at the bottom. The Majority Floor Leader may thus single-handedly promote or destroy a bill just by placement. The Majority Whip primarily serves as a liaison between the leadership and the members, informing the leadership of members' views and carrying leadership directives back to the other members. The Whip is also responsible for making sure members are on the floor for key votes. In the past, the Whip usually progressed to the Floor Leader position. There are also a Minority Leader and a Minority Whip, which comprise the leadership of the minority (currently Democratic) party. The Minority Leader is the chief spokesperson for the minority party; the Whip holds essentially the same responsibilities as the Majority Whip, except for the minority party. Term Limits The impact of term limits, which were passed by the voters in 1992, on the selection of leadership positions is as yet unknown but may have some effect. The ballot initiative enacted by the voters in 1992 held members of the House of Representatives to six years of service (three terms) and members of the Senate to 12 years (three terms). In 1995, the Legislature enacted the State Legislative Service Equalization law, which equalized term limits at 12 years in each house (six two-year House terms or three four-year Senate terms). An effort by the proponents of the original term limits initiative to repeal the Legislature s action by referendum qualified for the 1996 general election ballot - the first successful referendum in Wyoming s history. But getting on the ballot is not the only hurdle faced by initiatives and referenda. According to the Wyoming Constitution, they must pass by a majority of the total votes cast in the election, not just on the referendum itself. Consequently, although the referendum won by 104,544 to 90,138, it fell short of the 107,923 which represented a majority of the total votes cast statewide in the 1996 general election, and therefore lost. Past Speakers and Presidents have typically been in the Legislature for nearly 20 years; with the Speakers Pro Tempore and Vice Presidents not far behind, so even expanded term limits may bring decrease the significance of seniority in the selection of these officers. Role of the Governor in the Legislative Process The hand of the executive branch also reaches into the legislative process. The Governor may suggest legislation and lobby on bills just like any other citizen. Once a bill passes both houses of the Legislature, it goes to the Governor, who either signs it, allows it to become law without his/her signature, or vetoes it. A veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses. Under the Wyoming Constitution, the Governor has only three days (not counting Sundays) to sign, veto or allow a bill to become law without signature. After the Legislature adjourns, the Governor has 15 days to act on the remaining bills.
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