This week’s Courier Herald column
Last week there was a bit of a kerfuffle involving House Bill 530, a bill aimed at parents who withdraw their children from school for the purpose of “avoiding compliance with laws relating to mandatory attendance, school discipline, parental involvement, or parental responsibilities.” That sounds simple enough. The bill’s primary author wants to ensure that DFACS has the directive to ensure that children are receiving an education.
What appears simple on the surface never is, especially
when making law. A degree of difficulty
is added when making laws about children, parental responsibilities, and state
those signing on to the bill was Representative Wes Cantrell, a Republican from
Cherokee County. In his day job he’s a
minister. At the capitol, he’s a leader
in the effort to expand school choice options and is a staunch home school
history on issues should be taken into account when considering intentions at
the earliest stages of proposed legislation.
History is often ignored when making laws about children, parental
responsibilities, and state enforcement.
HB 530 as originally filed has some language that home school advocates find objectionable. Cantrell agrees. It’s language he says on Facebook in response to the criticism that he doesn’t support, told the original sponsor, and was told that the language would be removed. He admits signing the final version without re-reading it was a “big mistake”, and doesn’t blame the sponsor for the inclusion of the language.
is where it is important to take a step back and understand how our state
legislature is quite different from Congress in both operation and
execution. While they both have a House
and Senate, and leaders with similar titles, the differences should be noted
and expectations adjusted accordingly.
legislators serve part time, and don’t have access to the same resources
members of Congress do. Most legislators
only have a secretary which they usually share with other members. Those that assist with drafting legislation
are mostly in the legislative counsel’s office.
While they are full-time staff, they get the bulk of their requests immediately
prior to and during the 40-day legislative session.
involved is human, doing the best they can under the workload and timeframe
required. As with all human activities,
mistakes happen. While the system does
allow some to exploit the confusion for nefarious means, most errors such as
those described by Rep. Cantrell are due to multiple drafts being circulated
simultaneously with a legislative counsel’s office just trying to keep up.
also important to understand how the process of gaining signers of bills
usually works. Again, there is not a
team of full time staff assigned to each legislator to review legislation
before it is filed to determine sponsorship.
Instead, the process is a lot more like gaining signatures for a school yearbook
the day school lets out.
lead sponsor of a bill hand carries a draft to those he or she thinks may be
interested in signing. There is a
one-paragraph title at the top of the bill that attempts to describe the
purpose of the bill. Those that ask for
a signature usually verbally say what the bill does (and if asked, what it
doesn’t do). Much of this happens during
the first couple of days of session, with each member scrambling to get
work of reading bills usually occurs between the time the bill is filed and it
reaching committee. Committee Chairmen
then take on a gatekeeper role to ensure the bill’s language does as
everyone involved would enjoy a slow and purposeful review of every bill
individually in its entirety, that’s a world our legislators will never live
in. We pay them $17,400 per year to get
all their work done in 40 days. Our
expectations should be adjusted to allow for human error along the way, while
holding legislators ultimately accountable for the finished product.