A great article explaining the importance of Interim Study Committees. Information has not yet been posted for the 2012 Committee on Child Care but you can keep track of it and read last year’s meeting minutes on the website, http://www.in.gov/legislative/interim/committee/care.html
Andrew Downs: Legislators busy with issues during the summer
If you check the available reference material, you will see that Indiana has a part-time legislature. The part-time designation refers to the time legislators spend in session considering legislation. The reality is that effective legislators are active the entire year meeting with constituents, providing services to constituents and attending study committee meetings. These activities prepare legislators for the upcoming session. They also help legislators gain the trust and support of voters and are part of the incumbency advantage.
Perhaps legislators’ least known activity outside of the session is attending study committee meetings. The General Assembly considered over 800 pieces of legislation in the more recent session. Several of those bills did not call for the creation, modification, or elimination of a law or regulation. Instead, they asked for specific issues to be studied. One bill called for the termination of parenting rights to be studied. Another called for a study of how residents could deannex themselves from a school district. Another called for a review of the current oversight structure of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne by Purdue University. Those issues will be discussed by study committees before the next legislative session.
Items are sent to study committees for a variety of reasons. One is so that an issue can be given more time and attention than it might receive during the legislative session. Given the complexity of some of the issues being considered by the General Assembly, the idea that extensive time is devoted to some issues should be reassuring. Another reason items are referred to a study committee is to kill off the issue during the session. When hotly contested issues arise during a legislative session, it is common to hear calls for the issue to be sent to a study committee. If the call is answered, it effectively kills the issue for the current legislative session.
The work of study committees can foreshadow legislation that will be introduced in an upcoming session. The work also can provide insight into how legislators on different sides of an issue will make their case the next time relevant legislation is introduced. Although study committees can be political, they also can be the place where significant work is done.
Study committees also present a unique opportunity for people who are not members of the General Assembly to play a role by calling for members who are not part of the General Assembly.
Even if you cannot get a seat on a study committee, there still will be the need for expert testimony. If you have expertise in an area, you should contact the members of relevant study committees and ask to testify. If you are not an expert, but have an opinion about something, more than likely the study committee will seek input from the public. For example, on June 15, the Select Commission on Education took public testimony on the Indiana Department of Education’s plan for assigning letter grades to schools. If public testimony is not an option, letters, e-mails, and calls to committee members are always options.
The General Assembly isn’t in session, but legislators still are working. Don’t miss your chance to thank them for their service and provide some input.
Downs is director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.