The Killing Floor: Cox’s VA House Rules Committee

Speaker of the House Kirk Cox has decided to stiff the Democrats by sending the most important Democratic-sponsored bills to the Rules Committee which he chairs. Because this committee is controlled 11-6 to the GOP’s advantage, Cox can use it to kill bills, either outright but tabling them, carrying them over to the next year, or pass them by indefinitely which is sort of like leaving to die from lack of care.

According reporter Grahamn Moomhaw of the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Speaker Cox”..foresees a “bigger role” this year for the committee, which typically handles more mundane matters like procedural tweaks, study resolutions and bills to set up state commissions.”

“It’s a senior committee that probably should have been playing a bigger role in the past,” Cox said. He is as partisan as they come.

Graham Moomhaw in a recent column, “A battle may be brewing over whether the Rules Committee itself – where Republicans have an unusually large 11-6 advantage – is legitimate. Republicans say that’s how it’s always worked, but Democrats have hinted they may fight for more seats. We could learn Friday whether they think that’s a fight worth picking.”

2018 Tips on Lobbying the Virginia Legislature and Tracking Bills

By Tim Cywinski of Virginia21

If you want to follow a particular bill or track legislative shenanigans so you can tell the various legislators know you are watching them and will respond at the polls, the following tips will help.

Terms:  When a Legislator introduces a Bill, the Speaker can send it to a committee who can kill the bill or “report” the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole chamber. Essentially, committees are the gatekeepers of a bill and have a huge influence over the bills future. Most of the action of the General Assembly takes place in Committee. The committee actions are as followed 

  • “Lay on the table” or “tabled”  This kills the bill.
  • Carry Over— in even years, this action forces the bill to be reviewed and reconsidered the following year. If the bill is tabled in an odd year, it’s dead.
  • Refer to another committee. Referred or re-referred”: This action moves the bill to another committee for review. It can be referred to another committee with or without a recommendation. A referral with recommendation strengthens the chance of the bill to go to the larger chamber.
    • Generally, any monies bill (funding for government or state spending) must go through the House Finance or House Appropriations committee. This is the same with Senate.
  • Report 
  • Pass by Indefinitely (PBI): Action to allow a committee to reconsider legislation at a later meeting. If the committee takes no further action, the bill is dead. Passed by with letter – Action by which a committee requests a state agency or committee to study or provide additional information on a measure. Far more often than not, that doesn’t happen. A PBI’d bill is almost always dead.

Our best bet to deal with bad bills

Kill them in the committee stage: Call/ email legislators on committees and tell them to vote against “reporting” legislation we believe is harmful (always make sure to mention it if you are a constituent).

Info on committees found here.

The same engagement can help with the passage of good bills. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House has referred every significant democratic bill to the Rules committee. There are 11 Republicans and 6 Dems on the Rules Committee.  Toscano—Dem leader– agreed to this. It is NOT proportional but the agreement Toscano made did not require all committees to have proportional representation.  

Information on the Rules Committee is here.

Our best hope to pass important legislation

Tell the Rules committee members when the bills come up, they need to “refer or re-refer” to another committee without recommendation. This is appropriate because the Rules committee has historically avoided reviewing the type of legislation on this year’s legislative agenda.

If you oppose the bill, urge the Rules Committee to “take no action” or vote against “reporting” the bill.  

Testimony and presence at committee hearings makes the biggest impact. Not only for the legislators, but for the media. See this article as an example.

Tips for Success:

Know the name and Number of the Bill you want to support or oppose.  That way the legislative assistants you speak to when you call, know that you know what’s up (as best you can) and that you are serious about your support or opposition.

To search by topic go to https://www.vpap.org/general-assembly/bills/issues/

This way you can research the bill, who the patron is and where it is in committee. For example, if I want to track Elizabeth Guzman’s Bill about paid Family and Medical Leave (a bill headed to the Rules committee), I can search under topics in VPAP, find the number of the bill. When I enter the Bill Number, in the LIS  I will get the bill, the patron, what committee it is in.

To search by bill number: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=181&typ=lnk&val=02

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?181+sum+HB973  When I Link to LIS for Elizabeth Guzman’s Bill I not only know the number of the bill, I can keep track of what is going on with it.  

I can now call/write the appropriate committee and tell each member to refer this bill with or without recommendation to another Committee. I can also keep track of who votes to kill it and who votes to refer it.  

To get names of committees and members and to find the phone numbers and emails of the legislators, go to the Virginia Legislative Assembly Homepage (LIS)

http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/membersAndSession.php?secid=1&activesec=0#!hb=1&mainContentTabs=0

List of all House Members, their phones and their email

http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php

List of all Senate Members, their phones and their email.

https://apps.senate.virginia.gov/Senator/index.php

To find the schedule for committee meetings:

Scheduled (SUBJECT TO CHANGE) Committee Meetings

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+oth+MTG

House of Delegates Meeting Schedule (Subject to Change)

http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/schedule/meetingSchedule.php

Daily Schedule for House and Senate (you can see previous days and today’s schedule).

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?181+cal+CAL

VCET Citizen Lobbyist Sign-up Sheet (Barb Jones)

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddAumtAG0dDeXjcfyBHRO4gjDtIboIg6KVrBux8lkBEdg1yw/viewform VCET will help you attend meetings and meet legislators about bills you want to see passed.

You can also track Bills in the Legislature, by going to the VA Legislative Information Service (LIS) and Registering for “Lobbyist in a Box”.

  • Create a log in with a number id, a password and your email.  When you get a confirmation email, activate it. You can now track up to 5 bills under that registration.  You can create another  id to track additional bills if you want.

Register for Lobbyist in A Box

https://vi.virginiainteractive.org/cgi-bin/liab_signup.cgi

How to Use Lobbyist in a Box

https://lis.virginia.gov/h015.htm

If you cannot be in Richmond but want to watch floor deliberations and Committee hearings live,  use the following links:

House of Delegates: http://virginia-house.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

State Senate: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

 

 Tim Cywinski  Copyright 2018

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