Committees are the doers of the Legislature. The process is designed to be slow, deliberative and encourage public input.
However, speed and secrecy are increasingly being used to limit public involvement and careful legislative deliberation.
Public hearings are one place people can make an impact on a developing new law. By testifying at a hearing, a person can directly provide input. Those who cannot travel to the Capitol can send emails or letters to members of a committee and request changes in legislation.
In recent years, small but significant changes are taking place in the workings of committees that limit public involvement. Changes like shortening the length of notice before a public hearing; providing a public notice of one version of a bill and then offering a complete rewrite shortly before the public hearing; limiting speaking time for those testifying; limiting questions from committee members; allowing “invited testimony only” in a public hearing or voting on a bill immediately following the public testimony.
All of these actions have been used for decades. But it is the increasing frequency by which they are used that concerns many of my constituents.