Have you ever wondered how Humane PA determines what level of effort to allocate to a particular bill? How does Humane PA determine which bills to concentrate on – after all, aren’t all bills introduced that relate to the humane treatment of animals or cruelty important? We hope that this blog will offer insight regarding how priorities and timing of requests for action are determined.
An average of 4,000 bills, including dozens that can affect animals, are introduced into the Pennsylvania General Assembly each session. To maximize our impact, Humane PA makes strategically sound decisions regarding the best way to focus our energies. There are some bills introduced that are extremely important for animal protection and, fortunately, enjoy widespread bipartisan support. Such bills don’t need much of our help and while we note them and may ask you to weigh in on the issue with your legislators, these bills will pass without without additional effort from the animal vote. We also recognize that your time is limited – so, we also focus on getting the biggest “bang” from each alert and action request.
We begin by working closely with the animal lobbyists and prime-sponsors of animal bills, and we carefully weigh every decision we make on the following criteria: immediacy; prime sponsor strategy; strength of opposition; timing; probability of passage (both high and low):
1. Immediacy: Sometimes leadership decides to move a bill quickly for various reasons. These may include pressure from the sponsoring legislator; a need for a “filler” bill (a time buying strategy while working out vote counts and to garner new support) while working on controversial bills, or perhaps an issue that received media attention, prompting renewed interest in it.
2. The Prime-Sponsor’s Strategy: Some legislators prefer to quietly support movement of a bill without notice or fanfare, in order to tamp down opposition. In those cases, we don’t issue alerts for help in advance, but rather report to members after the bill moves. Although some legislators may have an idea of when they want to push their bills or hold for what may be considered better timing, most prefer our help. We frequently provide this help in the form of helping the sponsor gather co-sponsors and/or utilizing our resources to push for a vote. We always do our best to keep humane leaders happy because we want their bills to be successful and for them to want to work with us again.
3. Strength of Opposition: If a bill faces such strong opposition that the legislators are not willing to move the bill for a vote, we will evaluate if there is a chance to overcome the opposition. We will expend a significant effort to kill what we believe are bad bills, such as the Ag-Gag bill, or to help pass extremely challenging ones, for example the bill to end cruel live pigeon shoots.
4. Timing: We continually evaluate the efficacy of a particular effort as it relates to the focus of the current legislature, and the desires of the bill sponsor. There are times for which we will stand down our efforts, for example, during budget hearings when focus is elsewhere, or when contentious bills are being battled.
5. Probability of Passage: Some bills are so non-controversial, and have zero opposition, that we don’t waste advocates energy on them and we only report on those ones when they pass. Conversely, there are some bills that for political reasons will never see the light of day for various reasons, and we don’t want to waste your time and energy or ours.
The animal vote in Pennsylvania is getting far more engaged, sophisticated and strategic and with your help, we will continue to grow our political power and make Pennsylvania a better place for animals.