Today’s post is on obstacles faced in the legislative process.

As one might contemplate, there are numerous obstacles to overcome during the legislative process here in California. These are generally characterized as policy, fiscal, and political obstacles that may have to be addressed as a bill travels through the legislative process. Our effort here is to pose a few questions that one might want to ask before proceeding with a bill in the California Legislature.

The first set is policy obstacles. Naturally, there should be a good policy rationale for the legislation. Unfortunately, the Legislature generally examines a proposed solution rather than examine the policy problem that is attempted to be addressed and then determine what the best solution to that problem actually is.

At this early point, the bill’s proponents need to address these questions.

  • In presenting the bill, which contains a solution, has the policy problem been clearly explained?
  • Is this bill the best solution to the stated policy problem?
  • Are there other viable solutions to address the problem?
  • What are the potential policy problems with the other solutions?
  • Is there sufficient policy justification to make the proposed change in the law?
  • Is there evidence that the alleged shortcoming in existing law actually exists?

The next set is fiscal obstacles. Assuming the policy implications are addressed, the fiscal impact is duly considered by the respective appropriations committees. Note that even some policy committees do consider the fiscal impact of proposed legislation. The questions for addressing fiscal obstacles are:

  • Is there any fiscal impact due to the proposed law change contained in the bill? If so, how significant is the fiscal impact?
  • If there is a fiscal impact, is it to the state government, to local government, to the private sector, or a combination thereof?
  • If the fiscal impact is significant, is there some sort of funding source or a mechanism to help pay for the cost of the bill?
  • What is the likely position of the Governor’s Department of Finance: support or oppose or neutral?

Third is political obstacles. Some of the questions to pose in this area include:

  • Which groups are likely to support or oppose the bill and how can they impact the proposed law change?
  • Is there potential grassroots support for either side of the bill, in support or in opposition?
  • And how do the key legislative staff view the proposal?

In some instances, vote requirements may become an obstacle if the bill requires a super-majority vote for passage.

As one would expect, each controversial bill can create its own unique set of obstacles that will need to be addressed. That’s why there’s not a clear set of rules that apply in the same way for all pieces of legislation.

You can find a transcript of today’s podcast here.

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