“How do you know what to put in a bill?” the high school student asked me. “Listening,” I told him. “I get lots of good ideas.” A good idea leads to good legislation.
Just as holiday preparations are underway; this is also the season of preparation for a new Legislative Session. Bills can’t be officially introduced until the inauguration of the newly elected Senators, but many in the Capitol are busy doing the homework on legislation.
Sometimes preparation of a new bill is fairly simple. But writing a bill often involves significant research on the details of a new bill and the history of prior legislation: both success and failure.
For example, a local judge asked me to change one word in the criminal law.
I sought help from lawyers in Legislative Council. These folks are well educated in the details of the law and history of legislation. The research provided by the Legislative Council attorney helped me understand why the law was written as it was and why changing it was not so simple.
The change the judge wanted involved much more than one word to make sure the law remained tight and criminals were brought to justice. The attorney’s research was very valuable in helping me take a good idea and craft it into language of a new bill.
Good ideas do turn into new laws.
Several years ago I spoke with a man who needed health insurance for his young adult daughter. His story led to passage of my amendment that allowed parents to keep their adult children on their insurance until the child reached age 27.
That amendment became law well before the federal law passed requiring insurance companies to allow parents to cover children up to age 26 on their health insurance. Wisconsin was ahead of the game because a man took the time to call me.
Many small businesses and farmers contact me regarding the health insurance exchange. People complain about paying too much for awful coverage. Some want to start a small business but are afraid to leave a job that provides health insurance because they worry about finding similar coverage on their own.
People tell me they want the state, not the federal government, to run the health exchange. People ask me to re-introduce my health insurance exchange bill. My bill lays out the details of a well-run, self-supporting health exchange. In January I will introduce this bill and continue my work to bring affordable insurance to small business owners.
Listening to constituents I learn of other requests for new laws.
Last week I spoke with a Jackson County man who bought acreage in the country and is building his dream house. As he put finishing touches on his new home, he learned that three of his four neighbors have contracts with a sand mine.
He was devastated. The man asked if I could draft legislation to require disclosure of nearby sand mine contracts as a condition of a real estate sale.
Later, I spoke to another man concerned about a subdivision going up a stone’s throw away from an approved, but not yet developed, sand mine. Still another man said he didn’t realize a mine was being built in his neighborhood. Many have asked me to somehow require that neighbors be made aware earlier in the process of the possible construction of a mine.
Concerns raised by constituents often lead to new bills. One such bill I am currently drafting is related to school referendums. As state money tightens, local school districts often turn to referendums to gain additional resources.
Some local schools were successful in passing a referendum to exceed the levy limit. But the referendum wording was interpreted one way by the school district and another by the state. The bill I am drafting will hopefully clear up the confusion - at least for future referendums.
Good ideas lead to good legislation. Now is the season to give me call and share your good idea.