As a sponsor of legislation, one of the most important decisions you will
face is who to ask to be the author of your bill. The significance of this
decision cannot be overstated, and is equaled by its complexity. I generally
apply the following checklist of considerations to help ensure that I
approach the “ideal” author:
1. Is the potential author (PA) in a leadership position in the
2. Is the PA the chair, or an influential member, of a relevant policy
or fiscal committee?
3. What is the PAs relationship with members of all four caucuses and
4. Does protocol require offering the bill to a particular PA?
5. How much does the subject/issue matter to the PA?
6. How will the issue play in the PA’s district?
7. Who is the staff person in the PA’s office to whom the bill will be
8. What knowledge does the PA have of the subject matter? This is a
complex consideration: a little knowledge can be more dangerous than none,
9. How do you rate the PA’s ability to present this bill in committee
and on the floor?
10. Will the PA treat this as “his or her bill” or “your bill”? I.e.,
how much input will you be allowed to have into decisions, such as whether
to accept amendments, etc?
11. How important is the bill to you? Is it important enough to use up a
chit with a powerful author who you want to save for heavy lifting?
12. Similar to No. 11 in terms of the need for a powerful author: How
difficult will this bill be to pass?
13. Can you use the experience with this bill to build a relationship
with, or to educate, an up and comer?
14. What is the PA’s relationship with affected interest groups and
15. How compatible is your working style with the working style of the
PA and his her staff?
Let’s take a look at the rationale behind a few of the key items on this
list, and go over those points one by one:
Item 4. A particular legislator, who may have established preeminence in a
particular subject-matter area, may be in a position to cause problems for
your bill if not paid proper deference by being given the “right of first
refusal” on a bill in that area.
Item 5. Your bill is important to you. Don’t presume it will be of equal importance to every potential author.
Item 7. This is crucial and can have as much to do with the ultimate success of your bill as any other factor on this list. In considering a PA, make
sure you approach one who will assign the bill to a high-quality staffer.
Item 10.You are the sponsor, but only a legislator can introduce a bill. As the author, the legislator’s name is on the bill and it is appropriate for him or her to treat the bill as their own. It is important to seek an author
who will allow you the degree of input into decision making that you are
11. There are obvious advantages to having an influential, powerful author, but not all bills require “heavy lifting” by the author. You don’t want to waste your ability to get a “powerhouse” to carry a bill for you and one
where their influence is overkill.
Item 13.With the rapid turnover pursuant to term limits, it can be a wise
investment to seek a relatively new legislator (even a rookie) to carry your
bill, and use the experience to develop a working relationship that will pay
dividends in the future and that also can serve to educate him or her on the
Item 14. Often the success of your bill will depend on the positions taken by influential interests. Be sure to consider the PA’s relationship with all affected entities in your decision-making process.
Having the “right” author is hugely important to the success of your bill.
Spending the requisite amount of time and effort researching and weighing
all the items on the checklist will help ensure that the legislator’s name
on your bill is a benefit and not a burden.
Ray LeBov has 30 years of legislative experience, including 13 years as the
director of governmental affairs for the Judicial Council of California and
17 yeas as committee counsel in the Assembly. On a regular basis, he
presents his courses on lobbying, Lobbying 101 and Lobbying 201. The next
presentation for Lobbying 101 is Tuesday, October 10, 9 a.m. to noon;
Lobbying 201 is Tuesday, October 17, 9 a.m. to noon.For details, call (916)