Typically, a series of pre-lawmaking stages of activity precedes the introduction of a legislative plan (Price, 1972). The first stage is the instigation and publicizing of a particular problem (such as nuclear waste disposal). Typical instigators are the mass media (such as special TV programs like 60 Minutes or a series of articles or editorials in major newspapers or news magazines), a representative who highlights an issue through investigative hearings, or an author (as we shall see later in this chapter) who documents and dramatizes a social problem.
The second stage is information gathering. This stage involves collecting data on the nature, magnitude, and consequences of a problem; the alternative schemes for solving the problem and their costs, benefits, and inherent difficulties; the likely political impact of each scheme; and the feasibility of various compromises. The third stage is formulation, or devising and advocating a specific legislative remedy for the problem.
The fourth stage is interests-aggregation, or obtaining support for the proposed measure from other lawmakers through trade-offs and compromises (that is, if you support my proposal, I will support yours); the championing of one interest group over others; or mediating among conflicting groups.
The next stage is mobilization, the exertion of pressures, persuasion, or control on behalf of a measure by one who is able, often by virtue of his or her institutional position, to take effective and relatively direct action to secure enactment. Whether an issue goes beyond the first three stages usually depends on the support it receives from individuals, groups, or governmental units that possess authority and legitimacy in the policy area, and on the support that the proponents of a proposal are able to muster from key figures in the legislature. Finally, the last stage is modification, the marginal alteration of a proposal, sometimes strengthening it and sometimes granting certain concessions to its opponents to facilitate its introduction.
These six stages do not simply represent the components the legislative process must necessarily include. They also illustrate the norms that govern the legislative process (for example, the airing of an issue and the attempt to accommodate diverse interests). They further illustrate the thoroughly political character of the legislative lawmaking process.