MD General Assembly
Get to know your state’s legislature. Maryland launched a new and much-improved General Assembly website just prior to the 2012 Legislative Session. On it you can now quickly find committee schedules and agendas, listen or even watch committee hearings, look up your legislators, and find out more about our state’s electoral process. Be sure to check it out! A few important links are below for your convenience.
Don’t legislators read these laws before they vote on them? Realistically, no lawmaker has time to do the research needed on every bill that gets introduced; they rely first on the persons drafting them to have done their homework, second on the Legislative Services department to analyze each one, and third on the assigned committees to look carefully for potential problems… but even the committee members do not have time to personally research each bill. I can tell you, it can take hours to research even fairly minor changes or additions to existing law.
So politicians rely on PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME to give them brief summaries of what each proposed law is for, and how it will work. MOST lawmakers, politicians though they undoubtedly are, want to do the “right” thing. Who knew twenty years ago that a little list of names of the “most dangerous child molesters” was ultimately going to cost so much money, and cause so much heartache for so many thousands of people?
How to make a difference:
Get familiar with the Maryland General Assembly web site, and get to know who YOUR elected officials are. If you are not under supervision, you have voting power! Even if you ARE under supervision, you can still contact legislators and voice your concern or support for a proposed bill.
Look for “Who Represents Me?” near the top right of the page and click the link. Enter your address and zip code in the pop-up window, and you’ll find all of your federal and state representatives. BONUS! If you want to send a message to them, you can do it right from that window!
Committees of note: Most of the bills that concern us are heard in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, although occasionally other committees will also hear “our” bills. These committee members are the ones you especially want to reach. You can easily find names and contact info for these folks on the MGA website also.
About the Legislative Process
David Smith and Stewart Levy of FAIR talk about the nuts and bolts of how laws are made in our state capitol, how to make your voice heard, and fighting bad legislation.
Veteran lobbyist Ricardo Flores shares some useful guidelines for testifying at legislative hearings during Maryland’s General Assembly
We also have some tips for attending legislative hearings in this document.