We’ve only got 17 days left in the 2015 legislative session. That means that time is running short and a number of deadlines are coming up this week. These deadlines structure the legislative session calendar to ensure that as much activity as possible occurs in the 60 day session.
This week, we are highlighting the deadlines that have recently passed or are on the horizon in the coming days.
Last Day to Introduce Bills
Senate Rule 14 and House Rule 91a state that the Senate cannot introduce any bills after the forty-first day of the session and that the House cannot introduce any bills after the forty-second day of the session.
For the 2015 session, the last day to introduce bills in the Senate was this past Monday, Feb. 23, and the last day to introduce bills in the House was Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Legislators often introduce a substantial number of bills in these final days. This year, the House introduced 126 new bills on the final day for introduction and the Senate introduced 42 new bills on their final day for introduction. While this is more than have been introduced in the final days of the last few years, it’s not substantially out of the norm.
For bills that are introduced in the final days, though, there are significant hurdles to overcome to stay alive. On average, about 10 percent of bills introduced at the very end of the session pass into law. The vast majority of the 168 bills introduced this week will never make it out of committee.
That is because a second deadline comes almost immediately after the final day of introduction deadline: the Forty-Seventh Day Deadline.
Bills Due Out of Committee
House and Senate rules require every bill to have three full readings on the floor before the bill can be voted on (House Rule 102, Senate Rule 19). Generally, this means that a bill must be read on the floor over a three day time period before the final vote on the third day.
In order to comply with those rules, bills must be out of committee and on the floor of their house of origin for their first reading on the forty-seventh day of the legislature. The house of origin means that bills that were introduced on the Senate side have to be out of all Senate committees by the forty-seventh day, and bills introduced on the House side have to be out of all House committees by the same day. The forty-seventh day falls on Sunday, March 1 this year. If the Legislature does not meet over the weekend, every bill will have to be out of committee by this Friday, Feb. 27.
The forty-seventh day deadline gives bills time to be read on the floor of their house of origin before crossover day, the third deadline of the coming week.
Bills must be out of their house of origin by the fiftieth day of the session. To pass out of its house of origin, a bill must have three readings (or have that requirement suspended by a 4/5ths vote) and be voted for by a majority of members. Any bill that does not achieve this by March 4 will have died and will have to try again next year. Every bill that does pass this deadline moves into the opposite chamber and has 10 days to speed through passage on that side.
Last Day of Session
All activity ends at midnight on the sixtieth day of the session – Saturday, March 14. Any bills that have not passed both chambers will have died, unless they are placed on the agenda for a special session.
Because of the short time period of West Virginia’s legislative session, there is normally at least one special session called following the regular session of the legislature.
Special sessions are short legislative sessions called by the Governor following the regular session. Special sessions are often used to finalize and pass a balanced budget, which the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass each year. The Governor may also place other bills on the agenda for the special session. Only bills that are placed on the agenda by the Governor may be considered during special sessions.
Last year saw two special sessions, one immediately following the legislative session and a second special session in May. Twenty-six bills were on the agenda for those two special sessions, 15 of which passed.
Because special sessions are at the total discretion of the Governor, it is generally understood that any bills that do not make it through the deadlines of the regular session will almost certainly have to be taken up in the following year.