What happens when House and Senate can’t agree? Conference Committees

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

It’s the final week of the legislative session and both the House and Senate are deep in the process of reviewing bills that were drafted and passed out of the opposite chamber.

That’s got many citizen lobbyists wondering: what happens if one chamber amends a bill, but the other doesn’t agree with how it was amended?

Not to worry, as they do for most things at the Capitol, the legislature has a process for that. In this case, such bills are referred to a conference committee.

Imagine This…

Senate Bill X has passed out of the Senate. Senators were happy with the way that it was drafted and did not amend it at all. It has gone through the committee review process in the House of Delegates. An amendment was made, and the Delegates agreed that the amendment made the bill much better, so they passed it out of the House. At this point a few things may happen:

  • First, the House will report the passage of the bill to the Senate and request their concurrence in the amendments. Meaning that the House is requesting that the Senate agree to the changes that they’ve made. If citizen lobbyists are agreeable to the changes that are made, they can encourage members of the other body to agree to the changes as well. 
  • Next, the Senate will vote on whether or not they agree with the changes that the House has made. If they do agree, the bill moves on to be signed into law by the Governor.
  • At this point, the Senate may also request that the House recede from their amendments or withdraw the amendments that they passed. The House then votes on whether or not to recede from their amendment.
  • Ultimately if the House sticks to the changes they made, and the Senate does not agree to the changes, or refuses to concur, the bill is referred to a conference committee.

 

The Conference Committee Process

Conference committees are usually made up of three Senators and three Delegates who are appointed to the committee by the Speaker of the House or Senate President. They are generally focused on specific topics and are tasked with coming up with a version of the bill that both the House and Senate can agree to. Amendments may be offered and arguments are made for the merits of the bill. If the members of this committee can not come up with a version of the bill that a majority of them will agree to, the bill dies.

If the committee passes a version of the bill, it is then reported back to the House and Senate where their concurrence is again requested. If both chambers agree, the bill can move on to the Governor’s desk.

What This Means for Citizen Lobbyists

It’s important to remember that a positive outcome from a conference committee review is never a certainty. Bills that go to a conference committee may be rejected entirely, perhaps even more often than a collaborative resolution is reached. In other cases, the version of a bill that is passed out of a conference committee might be very different from the bill that a citizen lobbyist was advocating for.

As a result, citizen lobbyists may try their hardest to work with legislators to develop amendments that everyone can live with. If consensus can be reached between everyone involved and the bill can be kept out of a conference committee, so much the better. 

In some cases, it may even be advantageous for citizen lobbyists to accept amendments that they’re not fond of, simply to be sure that the bill won’t die should a conference committee fail to come to an agreement on it.

In these final days of the session, conference committees will play a pivotal role in determining whether or not a disagreement between the House and Senate spells the end of a bill or a revision that will send it across the finish line.

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Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.