Confused about a bill's progress? Oklahoma legislative expert says think of football

Rick Farmer, deputy state insurance commissioner and Oklahoma legislative expert uses a football field to help explain the status of a bill.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: February 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm •  Published: February 3, 2013
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Farmer said he developed the concept further, and came up with rules to determine yardage gains and losses for each twist and turn a bill takes.

“People can take the rules and use it to track legislation that they're interested in,” he said.

Oklahoma's legislative session begins Monday and is scheduled to run through late May.

In Farmer's legislative football game, all bills start at their own 20-yard line. Most bills die at the first committee deadline because they won't get a hearing. Getting a committee hearing is a big step, or a 35-yard pickup in Farmer's game.

“That's a big deal; you're on the way,” he said.

Most procedural steps are 5-yard gains. Setbacks, or penalties, include a hostile amendment being attached to the bill or a procedure to remove the title, meaning the bill has to come back for another hearing in that chamber.

Farmer said he's suggested political science professors use the concept to help explain the process to students. He's used it at seminars for those wanting to know more about the legislative process.

Football is an easily understood metaphor and a fun way to think about the legislative process, he said.

“The question is, is this bill that I'm interested in going to pass or not?” he said. “Well, it's on the 40-yard line — it's made a lot of progress, it's got a long way to go. That's all you really care about it, isn't it?”


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