Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In Frustration, An Opportunity to Realize Reform

The long-anticipated Farmworkers Rights Bill appears to be waylaid after Senator Darrel Aubertine requested that the bill receive secondary reference to the Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. While the committee held a hearing on the bill on Monday, the bill did not appear on the committee’s agenda this week, and advocates fear that Aubertine is deliberately stalling on the bill.

The good news for the bill’s proponents, however, is that the new Senate rules allow them some options. Forty-five days after a bill has been referred to a committee (by my count, today is day 41) the sponsor may file a “motion for committee consideration” that compels a vote on the bill within two committee meetings (this short timeline is required under the rules for bills on second referral; if Agriculture were the committee of first referral, the chair would have 45 days to comply with the request).

If a committee fails to act on a bill within 45 days, the sponsor is also able to file a petition requesting that a bill be moved directly to the third reading calendar, circumventing a committee vote altogether. This motion, called a “petition for consideration,” will be honored if three fifths of the chamber’s members sign on.

As we’ve written before, the Senate’s improved rules mean nothing unless members take advantage of them. We don’t take a position on the farmworkers rights bill, but we do encourage frustrated advocates on all sides of the political spectrum to take advantage of these hard-fought new rules and hold Senate leadership accountable for their promises of reform.

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