Monday, February 7, was a major bill cutoff for all bills with a fiscal impact. That means that any bill that costs money or brings in money had to be heard and voted out before the end of the day.
The legislative fiscal committees, House Finance, House Appropriations, House Transportation, Senate Ways and Means, and Senate Transportation Committees all met in long sessions to decide the fate of hundreds of bills.
Many fiscal bills were never given a hearing. Many were heard yet never scheduled for a vote. And many were scheduled for votes which were never held. Few were heard, scheduled for a hearing, scheduled for a vote, and voted out of committee. It is rare for a bill to be voted on when expected to fail.
Except for House Finance – the other committees are some of the largest, most desirable to serve on, and powerful committees in the legislature.
This extra step a bill has to take whittles down the number significantly. However, with every cutoff rule, there is always an exception. In this case, if a bill is determined to be necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) – it is immune from all cutoffs.
For example, House Bill 1850 – dealing with data privacy – was declared NTIB and is now immune from cutoffs. WR is opposed to HB 1850 in its current form, which will expose retailers to considerable liability, interfere unnecessarily with customer loyalty programs, creates a new, expensive, duplicative, and overarching commission, and be extremely difficult and costly to comply with.
All bills that were lucky enough to get out of their fiscal committees now go to the next major hurdle – the Rules Committee. These large committees are tightly controlled by legislative leadership – the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader. All bills have to be “pulled” out of Rules and to the floor for a vote of the full body. Even if the bill does get pulled to the floor, it is not guaranteed a vote unless leadership decides to schedule it to be voted on.
Today we are on day 32 or a 60-day session – more than halfway through. Many more bills will not make it to the finish line.