Good public policy doesn't happen in a vacuum; indeed, it takes many voices to find solutions that will serve the needs of the citizens of Kansas and that is why at all levels of government, we have many different people engaged in public policy decisions (see side bar below). Each one of these layers of government address different problems and have different limitations of their jurisdiction (more on this later).
There is pretty strong consensus about what public policy should "do" for us as citizens. First, public policy should solve a problem, effectively and efficiently. It's not prudent to spend limited resources (time, money, political capital, etc.) on crafting a policy for which no problem exists. Second, public policy shouldn't produce undesirable or unjust outcomes (for the few or the many). Often times, the unintended consequences of a policy aren't truly understood until the policy is enacted. But, our intent should always be to craft policy in a way that teases out these threats before the policy is put into law or goes into effect. Third, public policy should support democratic institutions and processes. This isn't to say that institutions and processes shouldn't be updated or changed, only that our intent should be to strengthen our democracy with our policies, not weaken or dismantle it. And finally, public policy should encourage active and empathic citizenship. In other words, our policies shouldn't make it harder than it needs to be for people to understand the governing systems and rules that shape their participation in shaping those systems and rules.
All of this is simply an attempt to frame how we can understand the policies put forth by our elected leaders. If we have a ready framework, we can systematically and easily decide whether or not a policy being promoted is actually "good" public policy.
Policy decisions are driven by a lot of things, not the least of which are our own beliefs and self-interests. Consequently, underlying all public policy are belief structures that have been created by human beings. One way to understand these structures is to examine the political platforms of our two major political parties. If you haven't reviewed these platforms, it's time you did. They speak volumes about what is important to those who choose to put a "D" or an "R" behind their names.
Kansas Democratic Party Platform
Kansas Republican Party Platform
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities in the legislature and beyond.