Rules help legislative process move along

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Every member of the Senate is the equal of each other member, and each has rights that must be respected. The rights of the minority and the majority both must be protected." - Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure

This week marks the last week of session before my fellow legislators and I take a break for the summer. No doubt we are all working overtime this week to ensure all time-sensitive legislation is passed before the break. Rest assured that although many of us will be making fewer trips to the

Statehouse during the next few months, we will still be working hard over

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the summer to meet with constituents and local community and business

leaders to get a handle on the pressing issues of our districts before we

return to finish out the legislative year in November.

But even as we rush around this week, the Senate and House must still take time to ensure all members are abiding by the rules of procedure for the General Assembly. Because emotions can run high on controversial topics, rules must be followed when we are debating bills so that everyone gets a chance to speak, and that decorum is observed. For instance, before a member can speak on the floor, they must first get the recognition of the presiding officer. The presiding officer in the Senate is the President,

and he or she is responsible for enforcing the rules of the Senate. When a

member is recognized, he or she must state the reason for which they have

risen. If a member wants to amend a bill under consideration, they must

state that intent clearly to the presiding officer and ensure that all

members have copies of the amendment for review. The Senate also requires amendments to be relevant to the bill they seek to change. Interestingly, an amendment was offered last week that was not relevant to the bill, and the President ruled the amendment out of order. The Senator offering the amendment disagreed with the ruling, and appealed the decision of the President. The Senate was then obligated at that point to take a roll call vote to determine whether the members would sustain the President's decision. Because of the rules, what could have been a heated and contentious issue was worked out in a fair and orderly fashion.

At times, following all these rules can be cumbersome. But not only does it

benefit all the members of the Senate, they also are benefit to the people

of Ohio. I use the rules to get things done for the 17th District.

Recently, I used the rule that allowed me to insert amendments into current legislation on the floor. These amendments addressed a number of issues, from helping local Clerk of Courts, a racetrack that was having difficulty with ODOT regulations, and Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services, which is a multi-county, operated ambulance system.

If I would have had to introduce separate bills on each of these issues, that lengthy process would have prevented me from addressing these timely issues. Using this rule helped to get the help my constituents needed on an expedited basis.

I introduced SB 223 a few months ago that helps small businesses and

communities in economically distressed areas. This week, I worked with

other Senators and member of the House from Appalachia to insert that bill into another economic development bill that was slated to move through the legislature quickly. Because of my knowledge of the rules of procedure, I was able to help the people of my district before the Senate recessed for the summer.

Although the process can seem lengthy and complicated, Ohio citizens can rest assured that the Assembly rules certainly help the legislative process move along. Changing Ohio law is not, and should not be an easy process.

The existence of numerous rules and procedures ensure that legislators take their time and think about the bill they are debating. We make decisions every day that will affect many Ohioans – we want to make sure they are the correct ones.

State Sen. John Carey represents Ohio's 16th Senate District. To comment, write: Sen. John A. Carey, Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215, or call (614) 466-8156.