Rules Matter

Of particular interest next week will be what permanent rules the legislative chambers adopt to govern their proceedings. Rules can make or break the fate of legislation. Under discussion in the Missouri House is a reduction in the number of standing committees, which could expedite consideration of bills. There is interest in ensuring single-subject bills can move forward without delay. Legislators and lobbyists often want to load bills up with lots of amendments, but this can slow down or even kill legislation. By the time a bill is “perfected” the sponsor may not even recognize his original idea.

Rules matter. They can protect the interests of the minority and help to ensure an orderly and fair treatment of issues. That legislative bodies need rules was recognized early on in American government. Thomas Jefferson was so concerned about the chaos that could ensue without rules that he wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice. These rules still govern, in part, the work of the U.S. House of Representatives and offer guidance to many other legislative bodies, including the Missouri House and Senate.

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