How may the legislature change during an election year?

WV Senate Chamber

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

2020 is an election year, and this sometimes leads to changes in behavior at the legislature. 

Here are a few examples of changes that citizens may notice:

Changes in the type of legislation that is proposed. 

During an election year, legislators may hesitate to propose legislation that could be seen by voters as controversial. Instead, legislators may stick to bills that most people will readily agree are a good idea and could potentially stifle innovation at the legislature.  If a legislator has opted not to run for re-election, they sometimes propose legislation that rocks the boat more than normal. 

Changes in motivation for proposing legislation. 

Why are pieces of legislation proposed? Some common responses are: to solve a problem; to satisfy a major campaign donor; to generate buzz among potential voters; or sometimes a combination of the responses above. Citizens may see a number of bills proposed that seem like good ideas, but don’t move forward. This could happen if legislators are proposing bills related to issues on their re-election platform in order to make them public, but are putting their energy behind other pieces of legislation which are more likely to pass.

Changes in the ebb and flow of the legislative process.

Some committees may see fewer bills run through the committee review process than in other years. While this may not be true of all committees, the changes included in this article may impact the overall volume of bills that are reviewed. This has the benefit of leaving more time for deeper discussions in committees and also for relationship building between citizens and legislators. 

Keeping an eye on how the legislative process differs during election years can help citizens think strategically about the bills that are being proposed and the legislation that they choose to put their energy behind. 

It can also highlight opportunities for citizens to ask their legislators vital questions about why certain bills are moving and others aren’t and what impacts these changes will have on the issues that they care most about.

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