Why Legislative Committee Meetings are Important

The importance of a legislative committee meeting may not be immediately apparent. It’s tempting to view it as bureaucratic busywork if one is even aware of these meetings at all. However, legislative committees play an essential role in the lawmaking process and are often open to public input. This way, communities can directly let their legislators know which aspects of an issue matter most to them.

What is a Legislative Committee?

So what exactly is a legislative committee? It’s essentially a workgroup that meets to advise their colleagues in the House and Senate chambers on matters of agenda and legislation. These committees dedicate a lot of their time to become more informed in order to make sound recommendations. The public can assist them in this process by providing their viewpoints. In fact, public participation is very much encouraged in most committees.

Types of Legislative Committees and Their Purpose

Interim Committees
There are two types of legislative committees: interim and standing. An interim committee meets between legislative sessions – in the interim – and gathers knowledge on complex issues the legislature would like to be more informed on for the next session. These committees meet periodically throughout the year to set agendas for the next legislative session and prioritize specific bills. Legislation is sometimes drafted during these committees for consideration in the next regular session. Additionally, legislation that didn’t make it through the last session may be reworked and presented again. When the next regular session arrives, the committee advises their colleagues on legislation that involves these subjects.

Standing Committees
Interim committees will often dissolve when they have reached their objective. In contrast, standing committees, which meet during the regular session and exist on a more permanent basis, reconvene every session. Because standing committees convene during the legislative session, most of their time is spent advising the chamber on specific legislation. They review pieces of legislation, make amendments if necessary, and decide to give it a “Do Pass” or “Do Not Pass” recommendation. When standing committees allow space for public input, they hear from constituents on specific legislation, rather than more general topics.

Public Input at Committee Meetings is Encouraged
This space for input from the public is an important feature of these committees. Both standing and interim committees accept presentations from experts, businesses, or organizations. They will also hear reports from various agencies, both governmental and nongovernmental. Finally, they invite comments from the public on the issues at hand. This allows individual members of a constituency the opportunity to influence how their state legislators think about a matter and help legislators set an agenda. Often, it may feel like government officials are inaccessible, but the ability to attend and present at a committee meeting is a powerful tool.

Legislative committees serve an important purpose, helping build expertise in lawmakers so that they can make informed decisions on important policy when the time comes. These processes do not take place in obscure “smoke-filled rooms,” either. During committee meetings, constituents have the chance to leave an impression, give a perspective, and influence the government. The opportunity to speak directly with legislators is not only available through writing letters and making phone calls. It is possible for you, the voter, to go directly to your local politicians and speak to those who will make recommendations to the whole government about the issues that matter most to you.

Committee Meeting Calendar

The legislature is currently in the interim. If you’re interested in attending an interim committee meeting, you can visit the Committee Meeting Calendar.