How a Bill Shouldn’t Become a Law

Remember the old cartoon developed to teach students “how a bill becomes a law”?

A proposal is introduced. It is assigned to a committee that reviews it, hears testimony about it, and deliberates its merits. The committee then votes whether to advance the measure. If the vote is affirmative, the entire chamber votes on it.

In bicameral legislatures (those with both a House and Senate), a positive vote sends the bill to the other house, where the process is repeated.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma is teaching young people–who are disproportionately interested in the fate of HJR 3–a different lesson.

What if a bill the Speaker really wants passed is assigned to a committee that actually does its job–a committee that deliberates based on the evidence before it and the testimony it has heard? What if that committee then concludes that the bill should be defeated?

Why, you just change the rules.

You don’t abide by the decision of the lawmakers you assigned to make that decision. ¬†You cheat.

Speaker Brian Bosma insists that there is nothing unusual in his decision to take HJR 3 away from the committee to which it was originally assigned. And it’s true that some bills are reassigned, mostly in order to expedite the process, or because on closer examination the bill really belonged elsewhere.

In this case, the change was made for one reason only: to get the result Bosma wants. The decision he couldn’t get playing by the rules.

Even more incredibly, the Speaker has scheduled the new committee’s vote for tomorrow. The vote will be taken without the benefit of evidence or testimony–but then, as we’ve seen, the Speaker considers evidence and testimony irrelevant. The only thing committee members need to to know is what the Speaker wants them to do.

Usually, the power plays and the wheeling/dealing is done behind the scenes. This time, that wasn’t possible. This time, everyone got to see what is seldom on public display: the House leadership’s absolute contempt for democracy and the rules of fair play.


  1. This is the kind of thing that the electorate should tuck in the back of their minds, so when it comes time to vote, there are consequences, but that also is a serious flaw in our system. At the next election, people will ask “jamming through a new committee?”, “short circuiting of the process?”, “no testimony?”, “when was that?” They will claim that they “like his politics”, even when his politics are destructive, and participate in a destructive process by their ignorance. Like they say about when good men do nothing, it also applies to when ignorant ones act, too. Well, this was supposed to be a “grand experiment”, but the bigger the experiment, the more impressive the failure.

  2. Not to mention the flat out transparent lying at the beginning of the session when this allegedly “wasn’t a legislative priority” at all.

  3. I suppose if John Boehner and the GOP running the House in Washington can waste time voting 40 (or is it 41) times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Bosma and the GOP run House in Indiana can waste time passing this bill around just to decide IF or WHEN to vote on it. This bill should not be an issue just as the ban should not be law, but this is Indiana. Surely no one out there in the Indiana boonies who is paying attention is surprised by this nonsense. And we are paying their salaries to play this game and ignore all important issues before them this legislative session.

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