Delayed Bills 101

by Patti Dahlberg

Joint Rules 23 and 24 limit the number of bill requests a legislator may submit as well as the deadlines for moving bills through the legislative process. The expectation is that all bill requests and bills will adhere to these limitations and deadlines. However, on occasion, a legislator may need to seek delayed bill authorization for a bill request or a bill that will not meet these limitations or deadlines. A bill may need “delayed” authorization for a number of reasons. For example:
✓    A legislator may make a bill request after the bill request deadline, or the bill request may exceed the legislator’s five-bill limit. This would require waiver of one or more “bill limits” and possibly subsequent “bill deadlines”.
✓    A bill request may require additional time for drafting and may not be ready for introduction by the introduction deadline. This would require waiver of one or more “bill deadlines”.
✓    An introduced bill may not be scheduled for a hearing and final vote in time for the committee or final passage deadline. This would required waiver of one or more “bill deadlines”.

The process of seeking “delayed” or “late bill” authorization starts with a preliminary form (preform). A legislator generally obtains and completes the preform in consultation with the Committee on Delayed Bills (Leadership) in the legislator’s house or the person designated by House or Senate Leadership to oversee its delayed bill process. Legislators must provide the information for completion of the preform, including the subject or short title of the bill, the bill sponsor(s) name(s), the bill limits or bill deadlines for which the legislator requests a waiver, and, if applicable, the specific dates to which the deadlines would be extended.

Leadership reviews the preform and decides whether to grant initial approval for delayed status by signing the preform. At least two of the three members of Leadership in the legislator’s house must sign the preform for it to be approved. The signed preform allows legislative staff to work on the bill while the OLLS prepares the official delayed bill letter. Once at least two of the three members of Leadership sign the official delayed bill letter, staff attaches the letter to the bill and sends a copy of the official letter to the bill’s sponsor. The bill can now continue through the legislative process — assuming it can meet its new deadlines.

Generally, members of Leadership do not sign a preform unless they intend to sign the official delayed bill letter. Leadership can, however, decide not to sign the official delayed bill letter even if they previously signed the preform. When this occurs, the bill is frozen wherever it is in the legislative process until the bill’s sponsor can convince at least two of the three members of Leadership to sign the official letter granting the bill delayed status.

Current Leadership determines the specifics of how the delayed bill process will work for each legislative session. Over the years, Leadership has dealt with delayed bill requests in a variety of ways. For example:
●    They have chosen to “waive all” bill deadline dates without specifying new deadline dates;
●    They have chosen to waive one deadline at a time and only as needed;
●    They have chosen to specify replacement deadline dates for each deadline waived; and
●    They have chosen a combination of waiving one deadline to a new specific date and waiving the rest of the deadlines without specifying new dates.
Each session, Leadership approves the format of the delayed bill preforms and directs the process for obtaining delayed status for bills and bill requests.

Each house can waive only its own deadlines. Leadership in the Senate cannot grant delayed status to a bill while its in the House and vice versa. When bills with delayed status in the first house move to the second house before the second house bill deadlines have passed, they are expected to meet the second house deadlines unless otherwise authorized by Leadership in the second house. If a bill will not meet a second house deadline, the second house sponsor needs to obtain the appropriate delayed authorization for the bill from Leadership in the second house in order for the bill to continue through the process.

Bills in Appropriations Committee. When bills are held in the Appropriations Committee of either house and miss the applicable final passage deadline, the Joint Rules provide for waiver of the final passage deadline until the 101st day of session in the first house and the 114th day of session in the second house. The Majority Leaders of the House and Senate issue separate letters listing the bills in House and Senate Appropriations at the time of the final passage deadline. Staff attaches a copy of the letter to each affected bill and sends a copy of the letter to the appropriate sponsors. If these bills meet the appropriations and subsequent final passage deadlines, there is no need for additional delayed bill paperwork.

Introducing bills during the last 20 days of session. If a legislator wants to introduce a new bill during the last twenty days of any regular session, he or she must receive specific delayed bill authorization from Leadership in order to do so.