From a very young age, I have been curious about the legal process. My playlist is typically heavy on what I would call women’s anthems. So, lately I’ve been listening to Halsey’s “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” which has had me thinking. Even if they are not mutually exclusive, certainly we as women should be entitled to both (love and power) but, are our publications spending enough time teaching us about the latter? You could probably find an unlimited number of articles focusing on how to dress to look thinner, achieve the perfect beach wave hair, use the newest eyeliner trend, and teach you what guys really like. How many articles do you read that explain how to be informed, heard, and represented? How many articles do you read that explain how to have POWER?
Though Halsey dons monarchy inspired clothing on the cover of the album for “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” America does not have a monarchy. So, how does a woman really become a “queen” and have legitimate tangible power in the United States? Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously stated that “And when I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that." Currently, there are 4 women on the Supreme Court, out of 9 total. Out of 535 members of congress, there are only 149 women. In the nearly 247 years the United States has been a country, there has never been a female president. Despite not having equal representation in the highest offices in this country, you can still have power. Knowledge about how your government works, how laws get passed, and how to get more women in political office is a strong start towards the goal of having power.
Bills and Laws in Your State or Other States:
Most states follow a similar pattern of how “bills'' become law. Bills are proposed laws. Once a proponent of a bill “sponsors'' the bill. The “sponsor” is a legislator. The legislator might be the author of the bill or the proposed language might have come to the legislator from a lobbyist or special interest group. Once the legislator sponsors the bill and files it, the bill is assigned a bill number and it becomes public. Each state typically puts the bills online once they are assigned a bill number and become public. Online you can usually find a summary of the bill, the proposed financial impact of the bill, the name of the sponsor of the bill, and the full bill langauge. You can contact the sponsor or your local senator or representative to let him or her know whether you are in favor or oppose the proposed legislation. After this, the bill goes before a committee hearing; there it will be debated and voted on to move to the chamber floor. Once on the chamber floor, the bill must usually be passed by a simple majority of the chamber. Then, it crosses over to the opposing chamber. For instance, if it started in the House chamber, it would then go to the Senate chamber. After it passes both chambers, it goes to the Governor. Your Governor then has the option to sign it into law, veto it, or take no action. Key takeaways, bills become public and go online for the public to view; then, the bill goes to the chamber it started in (i.e., Senate or House), then to the opposite chamber then Governor. Governor can veto (no), sign into law (yes!), or do nothing (let the bill die quietly).
Though each state has its own process, each state typically has a legislature website with details of rules, information, policies, and dates for legislative sessions. If the Governor vetoes, the bill could go back to the legislator for a possible override of the veto, depending on your state rules, it might require a two-thirds majority vote to override or a simple majority. Wondering why you hear about bills and then, you don’t hear about them and later learn they never became law? Well, that is because you can “kill” them. How does a bill die you ask? Because there is no power in a supported but, later “killed” bill. Here is how the bill might have died. Committees can vote to “kill” the bill, chambers can do this also or vote to consider a bill even after a committee voted to “kill” it. The legislator that authored the bill can pull it from consideration. A “killed” bill might get “revived" by being added to a later or amended bill filed for consideration. Key takeaway, despite what Quentin Tarantino would have you believe, it is not hard to “kill” a bill; so, if you are in support of or in opposition to proposed legislation, follow the process all the way to the Governor to make sure the bill becomes law or fails. Getting a bill drafted or considered is only a small portion of the battle.
Finding a Way to Help Women Gain Access to Political Power:
Besides understanding the steps of where to find pending legislation in your state (website) and the steps a bill takes to become law, you need to know some simple shortcuts to track issues you are passionate about. First shortcut is to sign up with watch groups that are active in causes you are passionate about. One example would be, the Center for American Women in Politics https://cawp.rutgers.edu/facts/current-numbers. The Center for American Women in Politics tracks women candidates state-by-state and provides a comprehensive resource of information impacting women in politics. If you wish you knew all of this growing up, you might want to send a daughter, niece, or granddaughter to Camp Congress for Girls in Washington, D.C.https://www.eventbrite.com/e/camp-congress-for-girls-dc-2023-ii-ft-a-day-on-capitol-hill-tickets-492553840797
Maybe you are ready to begin your own ascent to a political office
If so, you can look at the “Ready to Run'' resources on the website for the Center for American Women. According to the Center for American Women website, “Ready to Run® is a national network of non-partisan campaign training programs committed to electing more women to public office.” https://cawp.rutgers.edu/programs/ready-to-run As we head into International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, I cannot think of anything more powerful than guiding women on their way to public office and greater impact. I am not an opponent of love but I am a proponent of women and I believe in their abilities to change the world. I think Halsey said it best when she said, “I keep fallin' in love, but this measurin' cup is overflowin' with the same damn problems.” Hey, if she decides to run, she’s got my vote.
WRITTEN BYLisa Gill