Legislature nears its first deadline

Feb 5, 2020
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

In this short 60-day Legislative Session, the first self-imposed cut-off for action is this Friday, February 7, for all bills to be out of their committee of origin. More than 1,500 new bills have already been introduced.

Most of those bills will not survive until a final vote. In fact, most of them haven’t even received a hearing. There are simply more bills than time to discuss and vote on all of them.

The next cut-off is February 11 for all bills that have a fiscal or monetary impact – either positive or negative. The Legislature’s fiscal committees, Senate Ways and Means and House Finance and Appropriations will be very busy – possibly working this weekend and late into the evenings trying to hear all of the bills dropped into them by the policy committees.

Then the big cut-off is on February 19 – House of Origin. All House bills have to have been voted on and moved to the Senate and vice versa. Then the process starts over with committee hearings and votes – however with a much more rapid pace.

The one thing to remember through all these cut-offs is that they can all be overruled. I have seen, rare as it may be, bills that have failed to pass before cut-off resurrected on the last day of the session and passed. Also, failed bills are often hung on other bills with broad titles. This is called an “ornament” and the mother bill becomes known as a Christmas tree. Sometimes the tree dies from being weighed down too much. I have seen prime sponsors of bills end up voting against their own bills because they don’t resemble the original legislation.

Session is scheduled to end March 12. I don’t expect the Governor to have reason to keep legislators in Olympia here for a special session. The Governor is allowed to call them back for 30-day increments if he feels the legislature hasn’t finished its job. However, the Governor cannot dictate what the legislature must address and while in special session, the legislature can introduce and pass anything it wishes.

With the entire 98-member House and half of the 49-member Senate and the Governor all up for election in November, there is a desire to adjourn on-time in order to campaign and raise campaign funds.