Wednesday, March 24, 2010
So what happened with the bills?
by Larry Geller
The Ways and Means hearing on the fisheries bill was at the same time as the Judiciary hearing on campaign finance (both mentioned in my earlier article).
Judiciary deferred decision making until 03/30 at 10:00 a.m. The campaign finance bill, HB2003, despite its importance, did not attract much of a crowd in the hearing room. It looked like something around ten people altogether in the room, and only a few of those gave testimony on the campaign finance bill. Of course, there could be thousands watching via Olelo (not).
Over at Ways and Means, the committee passed the fisheries bill (HB2409) unanimously, unamended. Well, there was one vote with reservations: Senator Hooser. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know what discussion took place, and the committee report isn’t posted yet. Not that committee reports are trustworthy, by the way, but maybe we find out something from them. This is the one with the 3 hr 34 min lead time for the public to get in gear and send testimony to the subject matter committee, which is where the debate is supposed to take place.
Both bills had plenty of testimony, though for WAM no oral testimony was taken. I got a few emails, the gist of which is “isn’t there something fishy about that also.” Well yes.
Much of the WAM testimony was identical, generated by the protest web page. While the number of people willing to type in their names to those websites indicates a count of their opinions on the subject, I wonder if the organizations who use that methodology realize that legislators, rightly or wrongly, tend to discount carbon-copy testimony.
I learned my lesson years ago when I sent out emails and more than 600 faxes for an organization asking for testimony, and some people just signed the fax and faxed it back to the committee! That’s right, the fax from me asking them to send testimony, they sent to the committee. There were a couple hundred of them, all the same, but I think the whole campaign suffered from that.
So these days we have clever campaign websites that can blast identical pre-written testimony with ease. Perhaps their utility is diminishing.
Incidentally, I know there are lots of other important bills, if I wrote about each of them, no one would come to this blog at all. I have the strong impression this legislative season that aside from the civil unions bill and a couple of others, general interest in the process of lawmaking among the general public is at an all-time low. The usual suspects aren’t visible at the lege this session (the lobbyists are, by the way, though I wonder if they also are fewer). There are even fewer advocates than I expected defending against budget cuts.
Maybe physical presence isn’t so important anymore.