Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Legislative Process

I have always thought it odd that few BLAW texts devote any significant space to the legislative process. Every text devotes a chapter (or more) to courts and the dispute resolution process.  There is coverage of juries, judicial selection, civil procedure, criminal procedure, stare decisis, judicial review, legislative interpretation by courts and many other topics that comprise the judicial process.  Why do we, as an academy, choose to largely ignore the legislative law-making process in the curriculum of a law class?

I use the old Schoolhouse Rock standby, Just a Bill on Capitol Hill, as an example of the "civics class" view of lawmaking (much in the way that high school students are informed that "law" is insulated from the effects of politics).

The "real" legislative process, of course, is imbued with interest group politics. Through lobbying, campaign contributions, astroturf organizing and other various methods, the best organized and well funded interest groups have a significant effect on what policies are enacted into law.

An article that appeared in the Hartford Advocate and the Fairfield County Weekly chronicled efforts of the Connecticut legislature to require disclosure labels for genetically engineered food. The article advises, "Colin O'Neil, a policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. . . . says bills similar to Connecticut's genetically modified (or GM) food labeling measure have been repeatedly introduced in other state legislatures and in Congress, and have been blown away by the combined lobbying power of the food, agricultural and biotechnology industries."

Of course, it follows, unsuprisingly, that interest groups also heavily influence the administrative process. The US Supreme Court is likewise not immune from interest group influence. Perhaps this following parody of the Bill on Capitol Hill song is more appropriate.

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