Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More info, please.

It's the season for me to investigate various pieces of legislation and while visiting the Utah legislative site came across another state with a very handy feature that I'd like to see replicated in Tennessee. I don't understand why it can't be done here. You subscribe to receive information about a particular bill. When it's scheduled for hearings, when amendments are filed, when the fiscal note comes're sent an email notice so you can keep up with it all. Now I'm sure there's some $ervice out there that supplies this information...but I think it's time Tennessee to extend this service to citizens themselves.

And while I'm in an asking mood, something else I'd like to see is how the bills are actually being written. As it is now we get bills that all too often say something like HB2795 :

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-1-608, is amended by deleting the words "high school students" and substituting the words "public or non-public high school students',
That's pretty cryptic. We have no idea what the bill will actually do. The cynic in me thinks that's just fine with some legislators. Other states actually show you what the changes are by utilizing formatting like this: Wording being removed, Wording inserted. Here's what's above in context that makes much more sense and reveals just what's being done very clearly.
49-1-608. Subject matter tests for secondary schools — Initiation of value added assessment. — By not later than 1993, the development of subject matter tests will be initiated to measure performance of high school students public or non-public high school students in subjects designated by the state board of education and approved by the education oversight committee. These tests must reflect the complete range of topics covered within the list of state approved textbooks for that subject....
Now we can read this bill is about expanding testing to all students based on subjects the State BOE picks and based on state approved textbooks. Since tens of thousands of families have chosen not to submit their children to the subjects and texts the State BOE approves, this is a problem. Lawmakers, supposed citizen representatives, shouldn't have any real objection to ensuring that mere citizens have a better chance at knowing exactly what's going on in their legislature.


Eric said...

"That's pretty cryptic. We have no idea what the bill will actually do."

Don't forget to give it a catchy name like Patriot Act, Protect America Act, It's For the Children Act, etc. to keep the sheep unawares.

Kay Brooks said...

:-) good one. Yes, it's all for the children, mom and apple pie.