Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) has sponsored 21 pieces of legislation during the 115th Congress. His approach to introducing legislation comes from his 25 years as a management consultant prior to coming to Washington.
“When I went in to work with clients, I didn’t go in with authority to say, jump through a hoop or push a button,” Schneider said. “I had to bring people together and understand where different sides are coming from and create a consensus, find common ground to solve problems together. That’s a skill that I’ve tried to use during my time in Congress.”
If your organization has an issue they would like addressed with new legislation, here are three ways to get ahead on working with legislators to introduce a bill:
One of the first things that Schneider does when presented with an issue is meet with all affected constituencies and stakeholders. This allows the congressman to understand the different perspectives on an issue and consider solutions that aide different community groups. Your organization can be a step ahead by amplifying the voices of constituents and encouraging supporters early on to meet with legislators.
“A good example is with respect to the opioid epidemic we’re facing in the country,” Schneider said. “This is something that cuts across all communities, it doesn’t discriminate against gender, or race, or party affiliation. It’s affecting my district significantly. I have met with groups working to address this, I’ve met with doctors, I’ve talked to families adversely impacted by the opioid epidemic and I’ve worked with my colleagues here.”
Along with being one of the most active members, Schneider is also one of the most bipartisan, with 47 percent of the bills he’s cosponsored having a Republican sponsor. For a bill to have the best chance at success, it’s key to have bipartisanship early in the legislative process.
“If you can bring people from both sides of the aisle pushing in the same direction and rowing in the same direction, the likelihood of making progress is much greater,” Schneider said. “That’s one of the reasons I try to build these coalitions, build allegiances.”
Bringing potential cosponsors to the table early on in the process of drafting legislation can be beneficial in moving a bill forward. To do so, Schneider recommends finding members with similar backgrounds or interests, even if those interests are outside of the political realm.
“It’s really building a trust between individuals, understanding people’s families, understanding about their district, things they are trying to accomplish,” Schneider said. “Sometimes you may be able to find two different people on different sides of an issue but where there is a link to what they are trying to achieve and you can knock out two birds with one stone so to speak.”
When working with a member to introduce a piece of legislation, it’s important your organization collect diverse input from constituents affected by your issue, suggest solutions with early bipartisan support, and reach out to members with similar districts to build a network of cosponsors. By incorporating these simple strategies, your organization can get ahead of the curve and provide valuable foundation for an elected official to introduce legislation aimed at tackling your issue.