The key to legislative success

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Aside from the last week of the legislative session, this is probably the busiest week in the legislative year. Bills authored by those who serve in the House of Representatives must win approval by the entire House by the end of the week, or they are not eligible for additional consideration.

State Represenative Jason Murphey

State Represenative Jason Murphey

I have learned much about human behavior and individual character by watching and observing during the deadline weeks of the past. Legislators who have worked on legislation for months sometimes see their efforts come to an immediate halt when the bill is not scheduled for a vote or is defeated by a vote of the House. The stress is compounded as House members vote on 150 or more bills during the week. The requires them to work late into the night, and results in sleep-deprived policy making.

A lot of politics takes place during this week as a handful of legislators attempt to use laborious parliamentary tactics to delay the process. They attempt to kill legislation by running out the clock and making it impossible to consider some bills before the deadline. One particular lawmaker even sends out gleeful emails taunting other legislators with the possibility that their bills won’t be heard because time will expire before they can be considered.

The activity isn’t limited to the House chamber. The House lobby fills up with lobbyists, special interests, government officials and grassroots activists. These dueling groups send in requests to legislators, calling them out to be lobbied for and against numerous proposals. I can always tell when we are getting close to the end of bills to be considered by noticing how many people are left in the lobby.

The careful observer may receive insight into a legislator’s true character by observing how he handles the defeat of legislation. Some are unable to manage the hurt and disappointment and seek retaliation against those who killed or voted against their proposal. I absolutely understand how they feel because I have been in that position a number of times, but I think the most highly of those who are able to shrug off defeat even when they were right on the merits, and keep working to do the right thing in other ways and through other bills. Those who respond poorly to defeat risk making long-term enemies, thus creating opposition to future efforts.

Here is the secret to success in the legislative environment: a legislator should never retaliate against another legislator who votes against his bills. If possible, a legislator should not even remember the names of those who voted against him. This allows him to interact with and relate to the other legislators without remembering their specific votes.

The application of this strategy has been vital for those of us working to modernize and reform state government. The legislator who works against a reform proposal one day, may become a solid supporter of another reform proposal the next day. Over time, we continue to build momentum for reform by highlighting the efforts of those who advance reform proposals and never retaliating against them when they disagree with our approach.

This has been one of the greatest keys to the success of the modernization effort, but it can be applied to all legislative action in general. And this is the week when that strategy becomes especially important.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email with your thoughts and suggestions.


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