HOW AN IDEA BECOMES LAW

 

  • An Idea Is Developed . . . A legislator draws from numerous sources in deciding what should be introduced in the Legislature as a bill. Major sources for ideas are constituents (CITIZENS), legislative Interim Committees which have studied the issue, government agencies, special interest groups, lobbyists, the Governor, or the legislators themselves. I often hear people commenting negatively on the huge number of bills introduced each year (700, 800, sometimes close to 900 bills), but the most of the bills are necessary or innocuous — appropriations bills; fixing language that was not quite technically correct; fixing language that was too broadly interpreted by the courts; sun-setting or extending previous legislated programs, setting up commissions or study committees, etc.

 

  • The Bill is Drafted . . . The idea is submitted to the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, a nonpartisan legislative staff office, in the form of a bill request. The assigned bill drafting attorney reviews existing law, researches the issues, and prepares the bill in proper technical form. The bill is given a number. A fiscal review is conducted and a “Fiscal Note” is attached. The bill is also reviewed for statutory or constitutional concerns.

 

  • The Bill is Introduced. The bill is introduced into the respective house of the Legislature and referred to its Rules Committee. If a Representative is the Sponsor, it originates in the House of Representatives and is a House Bill (labeled with HB- and a number). If a Senator is the sponsor, it originates in the Senate (labeled with SB- and a number)

 

  • The Bill Receives Standing Committee Review and Public Input. The Rules Committee assigns the bill to a standing committee which, in an open meeting, reviews the bill and receives public testimony. This is the most important part of the process because it is here that ordinary citizens can voice their opinion. The committee may make motions to do a variety of things to the bill. They can amend (change the language somewhat), substitute (replace the entire bill with something similar), hold (keep it in committee for review at a future time), table (set aside in a way that it requires a 2/3 vote to have it returned for review), or make a favorable recommendation (send it to back to the body — the House or the Senate — for floor debate and a vote).

 

  • The Bill Is Debated and Is Voted on by the Body. If the standing committee returns the bill with a favorable recommendation, the bill is debated in open session. During floor debate, the bill can be amended, substituted, circled (delayed for future consideration) or tabled (set aside). When a final vote occurs, the bill must receive a majority (38 votes in the House or 15 votes in the Senate) in order to pass.

 

  • The Bill Must Pass Through Both Houses of the Legislature. The procedure is repeated in the other body — House bills go to the Senate and Senate bills go to the House. After the bill has passed in both houses, it is signed by both presiding officers (the Senate President and the Speaker of the House).

 

  • The Bill goes to the Governor for Action. The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel prepares the bill in final form. This is called the “enrolled” bill which is sent to the Governor for Action. He can choose to sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it become law without his signature. The legislature CAN choose to convene a Veto Over-ride session (usually in May) and over-ride the governor’s veto, but it requires a 2/3 majority to do so.

 

  • The Bill Becomes Effective. An enacted bill is effective 60 days following adjournment of the Legislature (this year it will adjourn at midnight on Thursday, March 14th), unless a specific date is specified in the bill.

 

 

 

Selecting the Best Candidates

 

On November 6th, 2012, people across America will vote for the next President as well as other state and local offices. Over the next few weeks campaign advertising will flood television and radio stations, internet sites, and billboards and signs that line America’s roadways. The challenge for all Americans will be to sift through the rhetoric and campaign promises and choose candidates who can be trusted to honor and defend the United States Constitution, to seek inspiration from God, and to learn from wise constituents and advisors. We encourage voters to study the candidates and become actively engaged in supporting good, wise and honest people for public office.

We the People have been charged with the responsibility and authority to preserve a free government. It is not enough to wring our hands and moan about conditions in America. We must become informed and carry out our civic duty to hold elected officials accountable for their actions in office. These officials take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution. As a people, we have the right to expect our leaders to understand this document and serve according to the limits placed on the office they hold. On Election Day, we have the opportunity to vote out those who have not been true to this sacred trust and vote in others who will remain committed to the cause of liberty.

Samuel Adams explained that if we want to secure liberty, we must avoid corruption in government. He said, “neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manner are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

Adams went on to say that public officials should not be chosen if they are lacking in experience or training. The people should seek out candidates who have proven virtue and demonstrated wisdom. He said the task of the electorate is to choose those whose “fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.” (Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, 1:22)

Our Founding Fathers experienced a tyrannical government and were well acquainted with the weakness of human nature, especially in those placed in a position of power. To protect the people from the ambitions of those holding a political office, they prepared a system of government that would “bind men down by the chains of the Constitution.” Instead of placing all authority under one head, they created a mixed government with a balance of power between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the Federal Government and a division of power between Federal, State, and Local Governments.

Thomas Jefferson explained the purpose,

“The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions he is competent to . . . It is by dividing and subdividing these

republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself, by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”

James Madison also explained the balance between State and Federal governments when he said, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.”

Furthermore, the 10th Amendment states “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

While the Founders did not believe in BIG government, they did believe in a STRONG government. They recognized the dangers of tyranny (too much government) as well as anarchy (too little government). They created a political system for a strong government in the balanced center.

As we consider who to vote for during this election cycle, we should consider candidates who are in line with the Founders. Will this candidate respect the restrictive chains of the Constitution? Does this candidate understand the limitations placed on the level of government to which he aspires? If the candidate is pushing for more government than the Founders did, they are suggesting programs that are to the left of the Founder’s balanced center. If they are proposing programs that would mandate less government involvement, they would be to the right of the Founders’ balanced center.

So, how do we choose who to vote for? We suggest three characteristics we should look for to identify Constitutional Candidates.

1. A strong belief in God, and a life of moral and righteous living. If a candidate does not have these traits, how can we trust his sacred “Oath of Office?”
2. A knowledge of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. Again, each elected official will be taking an Oath of God to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. How can our leaders do that if they don’t know the Constitution?
3. Those that hold office must be and remain teachable. The whole nation will be praying for their safety and heavenly guidance, and they must be willing to learn from the myriad of experiences as well as from well-selected advisors.
As we approach Election Day, we recommend that all eligible voters study the issues, evaluate the candidates, and vote for the individual who will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the liberties that it protects.

"The Political Fate of America"

Having recently read and studied the chapter in The Real George Washington entitled, “The Ratification Fight”, I have had the strong impression that Washington faced in his day some of the same intensity against the Constitution that we face in our day. The main difference is those who opposed the Constitution in his day felt the proposed plan of government would give too much power to the federal government and lead to tyranny. Today, those who express opposition to the traditional restraints on government as contained in the Constitution are from the other side of the spectrum–they are seen as thinking the Constitution does not contain enough power to solve America’s problems and insist the Constitution needs to be stretched to place enormous power mostly in the hands of the executive to deal with today’s challenges.

In his day, Washington attempted to quite the fears of the opposition in these simple words:

My creed is simply:

First, that the general government is not invested with more powers than are indispensably necessary….

Secondly, that these powers…are so distributed among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy… so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people ….

The proposed Constitution…is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny…than any government hitherto instituted among mortals. ( The Real George Washington, p. 503, emphasis added)

After eight states had ratified, Washington wrote to Lafayette, “A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America for the present generation and…a long succession of ages to come.” (p. 504-505)
About those “checks and barriers”

We seem today to have our own “few short weeks” to make a difference and save our Constitution from the opposition coming from the other side of the spectrum. It is almost incredible to see the rapid deterioration of our freedom and liberty. What some of us thought may happen over a decade to two is happening over a month or two.

As we observe our new president making friends and deals with foreign leaders, some of whom have been staunch enemies of America, we must remind ourselves of the “checks and barriers” provided in the Constitution to prevent our president from unilaterally making deals with scheming foreign dictators. Here are a few of those protections:

All executive agreements with foreign nations must have the
approval of the Senate or, in some cases, the whole congress

From Article II.2.2 of the Constitution it is clear that the President shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided that two-thirds of the Senators who are present concur with the provisions thereof. (see Provision #153, The Making of America, p. 548 )

This provision gives the people of the United States the right not to be subject to any agreement with a foreign nation which has not received the consent of two-thirds of the Senators who were present when the matter was presented to them.

By definition, any agreement between two nations must be considered a treaty. Hence it is not constitutionally valid until ratified in Congress.

During the time of the Continental Congress (1774-1781) the only body authorized to make treaties on behalf of the states was the Congress itself. The same principle applied under the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789). However, it was appreciated that under the complexity of the foreign relations arising in the future it would be necessary to allow the executive officers of the government to negotiate various treaties and then present them to some branch of the Congress for approval. Recognizing this necessity, the Constitution provided that this task should fall upon the President and his officers — but before any treaty could go into effect it had to be presented to the Senate and have the approval of at least two-thirds of its members. There are some treaties which require the concurrence of the House of Representatives. This would include any treaties which involve the expenditure of funds. Until the House has approved a bill authorizing such e xpenditures the treaty cannot be implemented.

As we see our president making agreements with foreign nations, he must be reminded (and he has taken an oath to do so) that no agreement is valid unless it has the Senate’s approval after an open and public debate.

The United States is not subject to any international law
without the approval of Congress

From Article I.8.10 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to define and punish offenses against the law of nations. (see Provision #94, The Making of America , p. 436)

This provision gives the Congress the exclusive right to determine by legislative definition the offenses committed by other countries against the United States in violation of the law of nations (commonly referred to as “international law”).

Offenses against the law of nations are rules which “reason, morality, and custom” have established among civilized nations of Europe as their public law. Since the United Nations was organized there has been a powerful attempt to bring America under the control of foreign bodies made up of people who are opposed to our concept of unalienable rights and individual freedom. There members want to make America subject to decisions of the World Court, where these laws can be enforced against the citizens of the member countries. For several reasons this is a dangerous practice. First of all, Americans could be hauled up without any protection from their own Bill of Rights. Furthermore, people are often appointed to sit on this court who are sympathetic to the Communist philosophy. The major Communist countries have never joined the World Court; however, they have urged the United States to join. When the United States agreed to have international disputes settled by this court, the Connelly Reservation provided that the United States would reserve the right to determine when the court would have jurisdiction over its American citizens. Several Presidents have tried to get the Connelly Reservation repealed as a gesture of “good faith and good will” toward the World Court concept. Congress, however, has continued to consider the World Court unsatisfactory as a fair tribunal to settle international problems because of the way it is presently structured.

When our president and other executive officials express fondness for laws, philosophies, and customs of other countries it is in direct conflict with the Constitutional requirement that Congress is the only body that can define our law and declare when we are in violation of those laws. It is a dangerous practice to turn such power over to international bodies such as the United Nations. The authors of our Constitution foresaw this situation.

Only Congress can set rules concerning the treatment
and disposition of captured people and land

From Article I.8.11 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to make rules concerning that which may be captured on land or on water. This provision gave Congress the exclusive right to regulate the capture of prisoners or the taking of land from the enemy. (see Provision #93 in The Making of America, p.443)

When we see our president make decisions as to detainees and other military matters, we must remind ourselves that it is our representatives in Congress that have the authority to make such rules in such matters, not the president.
Only Congress can build up the military by calling up the state militias

From Article I.8.15 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to call forth the state militia when needed to: (1) execute federal laws, (2) suppress insurrections in the states, or (3) repel invasions from abroad.

This provision gave the Congress the right to order up the state militias singly or en masse to accomplish any of the three purposes specified in this provision.

It will be noted that the calling forth of the various state militias is not within the power of the President but must be done by the Congress. Even the Congress is restricted to three situations:

1. To execute the laws of the union — the requirements of the Constitution, the acts of Congress, and the treaties.
2. To suppress insurrections — which are open and active opposition to the execution of the law.
3. To repel invasions by an enemy intent on military conquest or the overthrow of the government.

Here again, both the President (who is not granted authority to call up the militia) and the Congress (which is limited to the circumstances when the militia may be called) are prevented from achieving an armed dictatorship and go around attempting to police the whole world.
Only Congress can authorize expenditure of tax money and then
only for those enumerated powers when they benefit the entire nation

From Principle #79 (from Article I.8.1): The people of the states empower the Congress to expend money (for the enumerated purposes listed in Article I, section 8), provided it is done in a way that benefits the general welfare of the whole people. (see Provision #79 in The Making of America, p. 387)

This provision gave the Congress the right to expend funds for all of the purposes itemized in Article I, section 8, provided that it was done for the general welfare of all the people and not for individuals or preferred groups.

From the days of the Founders a continuous storm of controversy has gravitated around the proper interpretation of this provision. In the Constitution this provision simply says: “The Congress shall have the power … to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” However, we have stated the meaning in Principle 79 (above) the way Jefferson and others said it was supposed to be interpreted.

Thomas Jefferson explained that this clause was not a grant of power to “spend” for the general welfare of the people, but was intended to “limit the power of taxation” to matters which provided for the welfare of “the Union” or the welfare of the whole nation. In other words, federal taxes could not be levied for states, counties, cities, or special interest groups , private businesses, etc.

For decades, the Constitutional spending restraints of the Founders have been so ignored by Congress and the president that it is a pure political free-for-all in the United States’ Treasury.
A lasting foundation for happiness

When the Constitution was finally ratified and the cries of the anarchists subsided, George Washington was the first to recognize the power that had guided their hands to produce such a remarkable document of balanced and limited government. Said he:

We may, with a kind of pious and grateful exultation, trace the fingers of Providence through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the states to appoint a general convention, and then led them one after another…into an adoption of the system recommended by that general convention, thereby, in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquility and happiness, when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us. That the same good Providence may still continue to protect us, and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity just as it has been lifted to our lips, is [my] earnest prayer. (The Real George Washington, p. 505-6)

Is this not the same prayer of concerned Americans today as we seek to restore the beautiful plan of government we call the Constitution?

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.