Guest blog by Senator Roy Afflerbach, Ret.
Thanks to patient, steadfast, relentless repetition and perseverance by animal advocates during the 2013/14 Pennsylvania legislative session, more than two-dozen bills favorable to animals were introduced. One of the strongest bills passed this session provides for the cost of care for animals rescued from cruelty and it was signed into law. Two others affecting the protection of police dogs also passed. Two more bills, the bill to end live pigeon shoots and the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption as well as the animal fighting paraphernalia bill made it to the final steps and were almost voted on before the end of October, and every bill that negatively affected animals except one has died. This has been no easy task.
Some may ask, why haven’t more bills passed? Why is it taking so long? What is the legislature doing?
These are not uncommon questions as people look to Pennsylvania’s full-time legislature for action on a variety of issues. Unfortunately, many people consider action to be the passage of new legislation, forgetting that others consider preventing the passage of new legislation to be action. The goal of these individuals is to contain or reduce the influence of government. Often, they consider the passage of legislation to be an expansion of government and they will do whatever they can do to prevent action.
Some people may suggest that the struggle to pass legislation is a contemporary phenomenon. It is not. The writings of the founders of both the Pennsylvania Constitution and the United States Constitution indicate that they deliberately designed our democratic system of government to be arduous in the passage of legislation to avoid knee-jerk reaction to a temporary public outcry. Their writings further indicate that the founders felt legislation with merit would survive the hurdles and eventually rise to the level of passage into law.
Consequently, on average only 4% to 8% of the all bills introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Senate combined become law in a 2-year legislative session. In the present 2013-2014 session, 263 or 7% of the 3816 bills introduced have become law. In the 2011-2012 session, 285 or 8% of the 4310 bills introduced became law, and in the 2009-2010 session only 181 or 4% of the 4274 bills introduced became law.
Moreover, fully 100 to 120 bills passed in each session (50 to 60 bills per year) are “mandatory” bills. They are necessary to keep the state, local governments, and school districts operating, or are necessary to meet federal requirements. In the 2009-2010 session those “mandatory” bills represented more than half of the bills that became law.
Because of the small number of bills that are actually passed in a session, the question becomes not “why hasn’t this bill passed,” but rather “how do we move a bill ahead of the other 92% to 96% that won’t be considered?” It will never be easy to convince 102 of 203 personalities in the House or 26 of 50 members of the Senate, in addition to a Governor and his/her administration, to support new legislation – especially if it is opposed by powerful interest groups. But with patience, perseverance, relentless repetition of taking the issue to the legislature, and occasionally replacing recalcitrant legislators or Governors through the election process, passage can be achieved.
In short, success in the legislative arena is not for the impatient or faint of heart. It is most often a marathon, not a sprint. Individuals or organizations that recognize this fact and approach legislation with disciplined staying power are the most likely to succeed! That is why bills to promote the compassionate treatment of animals are in position to become part of next session’s 7%!
In addition to being a co- founder and Treasurer of Humane PA PAC, Senator Roy C. Afflerbach, Ret. is founder and President of The Afflerbach Group, LLC.