Today is the first major hurdle in this short 60-day Legislative Session – scheduled to adjourn March 10.
All bills have to be voted out of their policy committees by 5:00 pm today or are no longer available for consideration. Out of the thousands of bills that were introduced, only several hundred will go forward. Most of the introduced measures never get a hearing – there is simply not enough time. Of those that are heard, many have too many issues or opposition and are left in committee without ever coming up for a vote. This is where a committee chair has utmost authority. They decide what bills live or die.
With any cutoff, there are always exceptions. If a bill is determined to be “necessary to implement the budget,” it is immune from all cutoffs until the budget is finally acted upon. Additionally, in some rare instances, a bill that fails to make it out of committee can be resurrected on either the House or Senate floor in a difficult and seldom used parliamentary procedure.
Sponsors of bills that die in committee often begin shopping for a bill that made it out of committee that might be a suitable vehicle to “hang” or amend their dead bill onto. The trick is that the bill title has to be broad enough to accommodate the failed bill, such as “an act relating to workers’ compensation” –that is a broad title! On the other hand, if the title is too narrow, the amendment will be “scoped” off the floor.
Additionally, bills that have a fiscal impact – which either make money or spend money – have to go to their respective fiscal committees, either Ways and Means in the Senate or Appropriations or Finance in the House. These committees will be meeting over the weekend for long hours to accommodate the many bills trying to survive and have until Monday, February 7 at 5:00 pm to approve the bills referred to them.
WR has many bills that we are working on that will make it out of committee today and many that will fail. The legislative process is designed to be challenging so that bills that finally get signed into law have been hopefully thoroughly reviewed, vetted, and debated.