Legislative Strategy: State Government Reorganization

Abstract

This case combines a case study, role-play exercise, and teaching resource to engage students in the legislative process. The case, "Legislative Strategy: State Government Reorganization (A-B)," can be taught on its own as a legislative strategy case, or much more powerfully with its complementary exercise and teaching resource, "Legislative Strategy: Role Play," and "Building Bridges: Legislative Relations and State Agency Managers." The case, role play exercise, teaching resource and teaching note were developed by Barbara Vanderkolk, who created these materials to share her many years working inside the legislative process as a legislative staffer, lobbyist and gubernatorial appointee to a state agency governing board.

Putting the student in the position of the affected agency leader, the case asks students to think through all facets of legislative process and behavior to devise a strategy to deal with a bill that threatens the agency. This strategy discussion involves identifying who in the authorizing environment may be relevant to the ultimate disposition, including other legislators, committee chairs, legislative staff, the Governor, the Governor's office, and key constituencies.

The role-play exercise gives students practice and confidence in ways to execute a strategy and engage in interactions with which they may not have been previously familiar or comfortable. For example, one group is charged with planning and executing a conversation with the governor to influence his position and actions on the bill. Another group approaches a key legislator, while still another group prepares testimony, etc. The role-play exercise is particularly effective if presented for and critiqued by a panel of legislative experts — a legislator, lobbyist, executive branch staff, and legislative staff. Students finish the role-play exercise with a broad understanding of legislative process and behavior.

The Exhibit, Building Bridges, is a set of guidelines for the legislative process designed as a complementary reading to the case study and role-play exercise. It may also be used to create overheads or class handouts to lead discussion of techniques for working effectively with the legislative process. These materials are easily adaptable to use by an instructor with less legislative experience along with greater reliance on the panel of legislative experts.

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