Weekly Legislative Report
Last week both chambers were focused mostly on floor action, working to pass bills sent over from the other chamber by opposite house floor cutoff on Wednesday, April 12th. All bills except those deemed necessary to implement the budget must pass off the floor of the opposite chamber by 5pm that day or they are considered dead. The House and Senate convened for hours of floor debate and voting each day and going late into the evening on Friday, and the Senate convened for floor action on Saturday.
With just two weeks left in session, the coming week will focus on the remaining business of session. Bills that were amended by the opposite house will be going back to the house of origin for concurrence, dispute, or conference. And bills not amended by the opposite house will go straight to the Governor for signature. After opposite house policy cutoff, there were 569 bills still alive. Of these, 531 made it past opposite house fiscal cutoff (this does not count bills that have been deemed necessary to implement the budget (NTIB)). This means just 38 bills sent to a fiscal committee in the opposite house didn’t make it past the April 4th fiscal cutoff.
During this time, bills must get ‘pulled’ from the respective Rules committees so that they are eligible to be brought to the floor. The Rules committee acts as a gatekeeper, and can be a place where bills silently die simply by not moving them along for further consideration. The Rules committee is also unpredictable as meetings are often not scheduled in advance, and not always viewable by the public. But you know a Rules meeting has happened when you get an email with the list(s) of bills that were pulled. Once a bill has been pulled from Rules, it needs to be put on a ‘run list’.
At that point, the bills are caucused on by each party within that chamber, and then brought to the floor for debate and vote. Some bills have quick and simple discussion, and some have numerous amendments and hours of debate before getting to the final vote. It is a complex equation of figuring out which bills to run when, and how much time each bill could potentially require.
In addition to floor action, the budget leads in each chamber will be convening to negotiate through the differences in the respective budget proposals as they work towards final operating, capital, and transportation budgets before the last day of session on Sunday, April 23rd.
TVW’s Legislative Review does clips each day highlighting some of the hot topics of the day. You can find links to the Legislative Review videos here.
Primer on Concurrence, Dispute, and Conference
If a bill was amended in the opposite house from which it was originally introduced, the house of origin has to decide whether it will agree (concur) with the amendments or not. This step must happen before a bill can be sent to the Governor’s desk for signature. Leadership in each chamber decides which bills returned from the opposite house will be discussed and then places them on the concurrence calendar. There are three potential paths for bills that go into concurrence:
- Concurrence: If the house of origin concurs with the amendments, the bill has passed the legislature and it will head to the Governor.
- Dispute: If the house of origin disagrees with the amendment(s) from the opposite house, they can ask the opposite house to recede from the amendments. If the opposite house recedes, the bill has passed the legislature and it will head to the Governor.
- Conference: If the two houses cannot resolve their differences, they can ask for a conference committee to seek resolution. Members from each house are selected to meet to discuss the differences. If they agree on what is to be done, the conference committee makes a report. Both houses must adopt the conference report for the bill to pass the legislature. It is an up or down vote on the conference report; no further amendments are allowed. If one house does not adopt the conference report (either by vote or inaction), the bill has not passed.
Primer on Timing for Bill Signings
As bills are delivered to the governor for consideration, the governor may decide to sign a bill, veto part of it, or veto all of it. Bills that are delivered to the governor more than five days before the legislature adjourns have five days to be acted on. Bills that are delivered fewer than five days before the legislature adjourns have 20 days to be acted on by the governor. The days are counted as calendar days, not business days. Sundays are not counted, but Saturdays and holidays are.
It is important to note that the clock doesn’t start immediately when it passes the legislature; but rather the clock starts once the bill ‘hits the governor’s desk’. After passage (or concurrence), the bill must be signed by both the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate and then it must be delivered to the governor. Doing this paperwork can sometimes take days, and sometimes it happens very quickly. Once it has been delivered to the governor the clock begins.
If the governor does not act on a bill after the allotted number of days, it is as if it were signed. In other words, if the governor doesn’t sign a bill it doesn’t die, it defaults to passing. You can find the schedule for upcoming bill signings here. Bill signings are again not open to the public this year, but can be viewed online at www.tvw.com