Changing MI Law
Citizen’s Guide to State Government
Convincing our legislators that the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) and/or Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) laws need to be revised requires an understanding of Michigan Law. Each session the legislature publishes a Citizen’s Guide to State Government. It contains a wealth of information to help Michigan citizens acquire an understanding of the legislative structure and process and to help them more effectively organize advocacy efforts. This Guide contains a lot of contact information for Federal & State Legislators and many Michigan Departments.
“Citizen Participation” (pages1 – 3) contains a wealth of general information on how a citizen can get involved and help influence legislation, including how to write letters and emails. Get to know your legislators and establish a working relationship with them.
“Information about Elected Public Officials Representing you in Washington DC” (pages 4-9) contains contact information for the President and all Michigan Representatives and Senators.
“Information about elected Public Officials Representing you at the State Level” (pages 11-59) contains contact information and pictures of everyone from the Governor, Michigan Supreme Court Justices, to Representatives and Senators. There is also a lot of information about Senate & House Districts.
Find a Representative: find contact information on ANY Representative.
Find a Senator: find contact information for ANY Senator.
“How a Bill Becomes Law” (pages 60-61). Explains the process of how a bill becomes a law, as it progresses through the system. Many bills are introduced which never become law as they never progress through all of the 8 steps.
“How Committees Work” (pages62-72). When a bill or resolution is first introduced in the House of Representatives or the Senate, it is sent to a committee that deals with its particular kind of issue. At committee meetings, elected members delegated by the House or Senate consider and make recommendations considering dispositions of bills, resolutions, and other matters referred to them. Committees are appointed by the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader and are organized according to subject matter.
There are House Committees and Senate Committees. These “standing” committees contain from five to thirty members and are appointed for two-year periods. When a bill is referred to a standing committee, the members of that committee have a choice in the actions they may take on any bill: report a bill with a favorable recommendation, or without recommendation; report a bill with amendments, with or without recommendation; report a substitute bill in place of the original bill; report a bill and recommend that it be referred to another committee; or take no action on a bill (committees are not required to “report out” a bill).
House Committees: find information on any House Committee including names of Representatives that sit on the Committee.
Senate Committees: find information on any Senate Committee including names of Senators that sit on the Committee.
As a rule, all standing committee meetings are open to the public. Exceptions are extremely rare. Most committee business is conducted during the meeting and most committee action requires the approval of a majority of those appointed and serving on the committee. If there are a sufficient number of affirmative votes, the bill is reported out.
There are several other types of committees set up by the legislature to achieve certain goals. Special committees may be created by a House or Senate Resolution and appointed by the Speaker and/or Senate Majority Leader. These committees are generally appointed to serve during a specified time period. The number of members of these committees will vary according to the specifications of the Resolution. For the most part, these committees are used to study and investigate topics of special interest, such as railroads, aging, urban mass transportation, nursing home issues, etc.
Members are usually given at least one day’s notice of all committee meetings.
Within this process are steps where advocates and others are permitted to appear before committees or legislators that are holding public hearings or gathering information about a bill. The purpose in attendance is to present justification to support or oppose a bill under consideration.
Citizens are encouraged to write to committee members and give testimony at committee meetings whenever possible. It is VERY important to keep any communication diplomatic, short and to the point!
During appearances you are encouraged to present opinion and logic, however, legislators prefer to have proof to support opinion and logic statements. That is where input from citizens that are, or would be, affected by the bill is critical. Any studies or reports supporting arguments are also encouraged.
Key ways to help change legislation:
- Keep in contact with your legislators and any legislators who are members of the committees the bill will go before. Particularly important would be the primary sponsor of the bill and the Committee Chair(s).
- Sign up to get notices from committees when meetings are scheduled. Check the meeting agendas to see if there is any legislation which you would be interested in. A Committee notice contains where and when the meeting is going to be held. IMPORTANT: Generally there is only 1-3 day notice of a Committee meeting.
Recommended House Committees: Criminal Justice & Judiciary.
Recommended Senate Committee: Judiciary
- Attend a committee meeting and give testimony expressing your concerns about the bill.
- Write to legislators (committee members & your legislators) with your concerns about a bill.
Giving Testimony at a Committee Meeting:
- If you have a good working relationship with your personal legislators you might want to let them know that you plan to give testimony as they may want to be there.
- Prepare testimony in advance and bring copies for members of the Committee and staff, if so desired. Put, at least, your first name on the written testimony. Written testimony is placed on the committee web page.
- You can also give testimony without handing in a hard copy, but it is still recommended to come with at least an outline to help keep you on task.
- Make sure you have accurate facts and figures and that ANY testimony has ONLY to do with the legislation being discussed. Do not bring up other issues with the law which are not being addressed by the bill.
- When you get to the meeting you will need to fill out a card stating that you wish to give testimony. It also asks your position on the legislation (support, oppose or neutral). If allowed, only give your first name on the card.
- If someone else has already covered a point you were going to make, move on to another point.
- Giving personal examples of how the legislation could affect you and/or your family can be very important. Legislators need to understand all sides of the issue.
- Keep testimony short and to the point. Testimony is generally not allowed to be more than 3-5 minutes long.
- Legislators may ask questions. Answer to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer, ask if you can get a detailed response to them at a later date.
- Be honest and speak from the heart! THEN be proud of yourself for trying to make a difference!