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Effecting Good Legislation

by State Representative Romie J. Palmer (Blue Island)

(Editors note: The following are the remarks made by Representative Palmer (Blue Island) to the Illinois Park and Recreation Conference on Saturday, November 22, 1975.)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have been assigned the task of discussing the mechanics of effecting good legislation for the betterment of Parks and Recreation. In this connection, I might mention that I am in the fourth term in the Illinois House, but have an additional advantage as being the attorney for a park district for a number of years.

The mechanics of effecting good legislation for park districts has, in my opinion, its genesis in two basic areas:

(1) a good working relationship within your legislative district, and
(2) good, needed legislation.

Illinois has the minority system of legislative representation; that is, in each legislative district there are three members elected to the House and one to the Senate. This came about as a result of the 1870 Constitution and has been carried forward to the 1970 Constitution. At least one-third of the House represents the minority party. In each representative district, you will then have three State Representatives you can turn to and one Senator.

The importance of what I am talking about cannot be over-stressed for the reason that, under the Constitution of 1970, a park district is a special unit of local government and, as such, can be created, abolished or modified by the action of the legislature.

How many of you know the names of your Senator and Representatives? Do you know the name of the Senator and Representatives? Do you know the name of all Senators and Representative who is closest to you in terms of distance? Have you ever invited any of them to a board meeting? Have you ever visited him in his home office? Establishing a close relationship with one or more of your representatives in the General Assembly is an absolute must. For the most part, an Assemblyman cannot know your problems unless those problems are discussed with him, preferably eyeball to eyeball. It is likewise true that each of you do not know his problems with any particular piece of proposed legislation or the formulation of such legislation. I can assure you that he is interested. And I can also assure you that your local legislator should be assured of your interest in the operation and management of your park district.

So that the first requirement of effecting good legislation is to know personally those legislators who will have the chore of creating or modifying the law in relation to parks and recreation.

The second requirement for effecting good legislation for park districts is that such proposed legislation be needed and, in reality, the passage of which would be for its betterment.

Two common situations arise: a local problem affecting only your park district, and a problem which will have statewide significance.

If the problem is one of local significance, call your attorney for possible present statutory solutions, or, if the park district does not have an attorney, you might call your State Association as to how the problem might be handled. In most instances, the problem can be worked out on a local basis and no curative legislation will be needed.

If it does appear that the problem has statewide significance, it would be better to have your State Association handle it rather than going to your local legislator for curative proposed legislation. It may be that proposed legislation to cure a local problem, if passed and signed into law, could or would have an adverse effect on another district. Your district legislator does have the legislative resources to advise you as to whether curative legislation is needed.

If legislative change is necessary of statewide significance, it would, as I have indicated earlier, be better if it were handled by the State Association. However, your local legislator should be advised as to needed changes.

Park and recreation legislation of statewide significance

Illinois Parks and Recreation 6 May/June, 1976

should be formulated in the year before the new General Assembly convenes, that is, in the odd numbered years. Your State Association should hold hearings or obtain the comments of the local park districts prior to the formulation of proposed legislation. Once the Association has formulated the proposed legislation, the proposals for change should be reviewed by your local legislator for his comments. If there is a flaw or a conflict of laws or its effect would be to invalidate or cloud another law, or otherwise, there is still sufficient time that changes can be worked out prior to its introduction and filing with the Clerk of the House or the Senate.

Effective practitioners of major legislation will see that the bill is filed in both the House and the Senate.

It is equally important that the prime sponsor of such bills be determined, and it is my advice that the legislative leadership of both the House and the Senate be consulted as to sponsorship prior to the bill's being filed with the respective Clerks. In my judgement, park district and recreation legislation should have sponsorship or co-sponsorship by members representing both major political parties.

If the proposed legislation has had thorough screening before it is introduced and has been reviewed by the local legislator (which most of the time means by the legislative staff on parks and recreation), it is almost certain that one or both bills will pass both Houses without unnecessary delay.

Finally, it is necessary on legislation of major park significance for the Governor or an Aide in the Governor's office or the Director of Conservation to be advised. This should be done by State Association personnel. For the legislation to become law, the Governor must approve the proposal. The contact with the attitude of the Governor should be obtained prior to the intro

(A section of this article is missing from our hard copy. )

branch of government is an absolute necessity. In the event of conflict of attitude on one or more of the provisions of the proposal, these matters should also be straightened out at some time before or shortly after the introduction and filing process.

The Governor's office has not historically amendatorily vetoed a great number of park district and recreation legislation. The chances for passage of legislation where it has had a thorough screening and approval of the legislative and executive branches before or near the time of introduction of such legislation is excellent.

Mr. Chairman, these are my comments on effecting good legislation for the betterment of parks and recreation, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the membership for inviting me to address this session.

Illinois Parks and Recreation 7 May/June, 1976

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