"All political decisions are taken under
great pressure and if a decision serves its turn for ten or twenty years,
the wisdom of its framers is sufficiently confirmed."
There were, as usual, many decisions to be made last Wednesday during our weekly House session. Since nearly 2000 bills have been filed this biennium in the General Court, no individual member can possibly know the detailed pros and cons of each bill as it comes up for a vote by the full body.
Our prime source of information is the "blurb". Each bill to be voted is listed in the calendar along with a majority description and, if desired, a minority description. In this case, "majority" and "minority" do not refer to the political parties. They refer to the number of committee votes on each side of the issue. The committee votes do not always fall along party lines. While the Democrats have about 25% of the seats in the House and on each committee, committee votes can frequently be unanimous or they can be separated by a single vote.
If those on the losing side of a committee vote choose, they can write a minority "blurb" to give their side of the debate. It is therefore important that the "blurbs" of both sides be well written and informative.
We also get a list of bills that the majority leadership considers the most important and leadership will have another "blurb" showing their concerns. Additionally, there are other sources of information available to us. A number of "in house" groups distribute their recommendations to all of us who wish to read their lists. The House Republican Alliance hands out the pink sheet, The Liberty Alliance has the gold standard, and the House Business Alliance has the green sheet. All have additional "blurbs" giving their reasons to support or oppose the various bills. All are useful in obtaining additional information on unfamiliar topics.
Finally, advocacy groups man the entrances to the House chamber. They are not allowed inside the main chamber or even to the anterooms at the back of the chamber. Such groups as the professional firefighters, pro- and anti-abortion groups, pro- and anti-same-sex marriage groups, state and local government employee unions, and advocacy groups such as Cornerstone Action, a non-partisan conservative advocacy organization, pass out flyers with additional information.
If a House member takes the time to read each of the official "blurbs" plus handouts from both the external advocacy groups and the internal alliances, the member will have considerably more information on which to base an opinion and thus an informed vote.
Some members unfortunately will vote blindly with one group or another or even with everything their leadership (Republican or Democratic) wants. The more conscientious among us will try to read at least the official "blurb" in order to make a decision. Those who are willing to work at it can get a pretty fair idea of what these bills will actually do and therefore a very good idea of the vote to make.
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