[Okay, this gets wonky in parts. But if you want to spend just 5 minutes to better understand how the State Legislature works in real life, this post will be 5 minutes well spent.]
A major deadline in the annual legislative calendar is looming.
Sunday, Feb. 28 is the last day of the 2016 legislative session that any bill can be passed out of committee in the chamber that the bill was introduced in.
This means that all House bills have to be passed by the House committees, and all Senate bills need to be out of all their committee references to continue moving forward this year.
There is often lots of discussion about Crossover Day (March 2 this year), the day that all bills have to be passed by the “house of origin” in order to stay alive. But, for many issues, the forty-seventh day – Feb. 28 – is the day that hundreds of important bills die on committee floors.
The vast majority of these bills never get taken up, primarily because of time constraints. This is especially true in minor committees. (A list of the minor and major committees in each chamber is included at the end of this article).
Minor committees meet less frequently than major committees – often just once a week. Major committees meet daily, and often multiple times a day for many hours as we get later into the session.
Minor committees are much more restricted, frequently only meeting for an hour or sometimes just half an hour, and rarely meeting more than once a week. A number of minor committees will stop meeting after next week as both chambers focus on moving bills through the major committees.
What this means for us is that many committees will only have one more meeting between now and the end of next week – and many bills will never move beyond introduction stage as they stay stuck in their first committee reference. (Bills often have a first reference to a minor committee and a second reference to a major committee).
The efficiency of committee meetings varies dramatically depending on the bills that are on the agenda for that day – and on the urgency that the chairman has to move the committee through discussing and voting on bills. Sometimes, an hour-long committee meeting can end up talking about only a single bill, and sometimes not even getting to a vote on that bill. Other times, committees can zoom through a number of bills.
Regardless of how efficient any committee is, it is almost certain that no House minor committee will be able to address every bill pending on its current docket. These committees have, on average, about 28 bills still pending before them – though some, like Roads & Transportation, have 75 bills waiting for consideration.
The Senate minor committees seem to be in better shape, with most of them having less than seven bills pending on their dockets – and many of those bills are duplicates of bills already moving elsewhere.
Regardless, we are quickly moving into the moment where the opportunity to even discuss a bill is sunsetting.
If you’ve been tracking any particular issues, and want to see a bill move, this is the week that it’s worthwhile to call committee chairs and ask them to prioritize the bills you care about and put them on the agenda for next week.
If you’d like help in figuring out who you should contact, please shoot us an email – we’re happy to help.
This is especially important for minor committees, but is also important for major committees. There will be significantly more meetings of those committees over the next ten days, but the number of bills pending before them dwarfs the average number in minor committees – and will only get larger as Crossover Day gets closer. For instance, on both sides there are more than 200 bills pending before the Judiciary Committees (nearly 400 on the House side).
Here are some bills that we’ve been tracking that are still pending before minor committees:
(Highlighted bills are ones we’ve discussed in detail in previous Legislative Hubbubs.)
Bills Pending Before Senate Minor Committees
Bills Pending Before
Senate and House Major & Minor Committees
Senate & House Major Committees:
- Government Organization
- Health and Human Resources
Senate Minor Committees:
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Banking and Insurance
- Economic Development
- Energy, Industry & Mining
- Interstate Cooperation
- Natural Resources
- Transportation and Infrastructure
House Minor Committees:
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Banking and Insurance
- Industry and Labor
- Interstate Cooperation
- Pensions and Retirement
- Political Subdivisions
- Roads and Transportation
- Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse
- Senior Citizen Issues
- Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
- Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security