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Creating or Changing Illinois State Library Law
by Robert P. Doyle
Creating or changing Illinois state law can be a complex and time-consuming process. Statutory changes require passage by the Illinois legislature and approval of the governor. The effort requires mobilization of all interested persons advocating for the proposed legislation. While each bill and set of circumstances are unique, the following steps are required to change Illinois law:
1. Ideas, Initiatives, Positions, and Agenda
Illinois Library Association's (ILA) advocacy program includes four major activities: development of legislative initiatives (bills proposing changes to existing Illinois laws); legislative monitoring (review and tracking of all bills introduced); development of association positions (support, opposition, or neutral position on bills affecting ILA's membership); and direct advocacy on key bills.
The Illinois library community and the ILA Public Policy Committee (PPC) are responsible for formulating initiatives (i.e., laws the association would like to create or amend) and developing positions on legislative issues presented by others. The preliminary combined agenda is presented to the ILA membership at the annual membership meeting; PPC then has the opportunity to make revisions before it is presented to the ILA Executive Board for its approval in November/December. The ILA Executive Board is the final authority for determining the association's position on specific bills.
Action: If the association would like to propose new legislation, the association, through the public policy process, must approve the proposed legislative initiative.
2. Research and Strategy
The PPC is responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy to get a bill passed. The ILA Executive Board will review, refine, and approve the strategy; and the ILA staff, with the assistance as noted below, will be responsible for implementing the strategy.
No idea will be seriously considered unless it is grounded in fact and supported by solid research. It is insufficient to state that the bill is necessary or desirable. The association must be able to explain the history of the problem, the current situation, and how the proposed legislation specifically addresses the problem. Each aspect of this research must be more than anecdotal. It must be backed-up wherever possible with statistical or other quantifiable proof of each point asserted. The Illinois library community and the ILA Public Policy Committee are responsible for the research work.
Action: PPC must develop a strategy that includes all the steps needed to pass a bill: research, legislative drafting, sponsorship, testimony, development of position papers, membership education, and working with the Advocacy Committee on advocacy efforts.
3. Executive Board Legislative Initiative Consideration
Legislative initiatives approved by PPC are advanced to the Executive Board for its final consideration, approval, or rejection. Comprehensive discussion on each proposed issue, in the political, budgetary, and government atmosphere around which an idea is proposed, is had on each issue by the Board. For this reason, the information required within the Research and Strategy paragraph above must accompany each idea for the Executive Board presentation.
Action: The PPC Chair will include the proposed legislative initiatives in the PPC report to the Executive Board. The Executive Director and Legislative Consultant will prepare appropriate Executive Board presentations on each legislative issue.
4. Drafting Legislation
Every proposed bill must be drafted in the proper format and taken to the Illinois Legislative Reference Bureau for printing. Proper drafting requires legal, historical, and often technical knowledge. ILA staff and the Legislative Consultant will be responsible for drafting the bill, the PPC, and the ILA Executive Board will review the draft(s). It is typical for any proposal to go through many rewrites and amendments before a final form is approved.
Action: Draft and approve the proposed legislative language.
Effective advocacy begins with identifying the best elected official(s) to lead the legislative effort. While all legislators will ultimately be asked to support a bill, the lead sponsor in each chamber is crucial to success. For example, if the association wants to proceed with a bill that has fiscal implications and that will likely be referred to the Revenue Committee, the lead sponsor might best be a member of that committee. Or, if the association wants to proceed with a bill that has intellectual freedom implications and that will be referred to Judiciary Committee, the lead sponsor might best be a member of that committee. An excellent cosponsor is an official from the district where the issue was raised or a key leader in the Illinois General Assembly. Contacting legislators to request sponsorship is time-consuming but incredibly important to successful passage. ILA staff, with advice and assistance from the Illinois library community, will be responsible for obtaining lead sponsors. ILA members would be asked to seek cosponsorship by their local legislators.
Action: Select and contact the best lead and cosponsors.
6. Coalition Building
It is crucial that the association engage other associations or interested parties in supporting or opposing a bill. The groups listed in parentheses will have the primary responsibility for the following steps in this process: identification of key players (PPC and ILA staff), contacting these groups (PPC and ILA staff), possibly negotiating with these groups (ILA staff), maintaining communication with coalition (ILA staff), determination of groups to present testimony (PPC, ILA staff, and coalition members), and division of floor responsibilities (ILA staff and staff from coalition members with a presence in Springfield).
Action: Contact and build a broad-based coalition with clearly assigned responsibilities.
7. Direct Advocacy
February to End of Session
Advocacy requires membership mobilization and active participation. If ILA seeks the passage or defeat of a bill, the following will need to be done:
a. notify the membership of the effort and ask them to directly contact legislators (ILA staff);
b. highlight the issue at advocacy events (ILA staff);
c. prepare materials explaining the issue that could be used by members when contacting legislators and distributed to legislators and their staff (Advocacy Committee and ILA staff);
d. reach out to the office of the Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian to take a lead role in advocating on our behalf (ILA staff);
e. direct advocacy to legislators and legislative staff by ILA's legislative consultant;
f. preparation and delivery of testimony by ILA at all relevant committee hearings (PPC, ILA president, and ILA staff); coordination of those appearances will be handled by the ILA staff; and
g. drafting and distribution of floor speeches and other materials to be used in final passage debate in both chambers.
Action: Coordinate specific sequence of events to promote passage or defeat of a bill.
8. ILA’s Quick Response Team
On rare occasions during a legislative session when there is a need for a change or variation of ILA’s official position on a bill or a new issue arises, a quick response team consisting of the ILA president, ILA vice-president, ILA immediate past president, chair of the Public Policy Committee, and the ILA executive director will consult by telephone, e-mail, or fax, if necessary, to provide guidance to ILA’s legislative consultant.
Action: Quick-response team called as required by changing circumstances.
9. Advocacy to Governor’s Office
As a bill progresses in the legislative process it is crucial to involve the governor’s office to seek his/her support or address concerns. Once both chambers of the legislature approve a bill, the Illinois library community must contact the governor using the most appropriate methods to explain the bill's purpose and request his/her signature. ILA staff will notify the members of this effort and ask them to contact the governor at appropriate times.
Action: Advocacy to governor’s office requesting support and governor’s approval.
10. Post-Governor's Action
If the governor vetoes a bill supported by ILA and passed by the legislature, the association advocates for an override of the governor’s veto when the legislature reconvenes. This often requires initiating many of the steps identified above, including additional research, drafting of new position papers, work with lead sponsors, contacts to legislators, preparation of testimony, mobilizing the membership, etc.
Action: Develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for overriding the governor’s veto.
Updated September 2019 by Diane Foote and Derek Blaida