by Patti Dahlberg and Julie Pelegrin
The 2014 election is finally over and the first bill request deadlines are just around the corner! One might think that returning and newly elected legislators would have a little time to take a breath and relax awhile before the 2015 legislative session starts. Unfortunately, the legislative rules don’t allow for much relaxation. The bill deadlines require legislators to complete the bulk of bill drafting in December before the first day of the legislative session.*
Returning legislators have until Monday, December 1, 2014, to submit their first three bill requests to the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS). Newly elected legislators have a little extra time — but not much — to get their session legs. They must submit their first three bill requests to the OLLS by Monday, December 15, 2014. But if all legislators submit their bill requests now, or as soon as possible, drafters can work on rough drafts sooner and work out any drafting kinks long before the first day of session — Wednesday, January 7, 2015.
What all legislators need to know about requesting bills [Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A)]:
- The Joint Rules allow each legislator five bill requests each session. These five bill requests are in addition to any appropriation, committee-approved, or sunset bill requests that a legislator may choose to carry.†
- To reach the five-bill-request limit within the bill request deadlines, legislators must submit at least three bill requests to the OLLS by the December deadlines. Legislators must submit the last two requests by January 13, 2015.
- If a legislator submits fewer than three requests on or before the December deadline, he or she forfeits the other one or two requests that are due by that date.†
The first bill request deadline is still a few weeks away so some legislators may feel they have plenty of time. But if a legislator waits until December to submit the first three bill requests, he or she will, almost immediately, have to provide sufficient drafting information so that the drafters can draft all three bills at once, and the legislator will have to very quickly decide which of these requests will be introduced on the first day of session. Although the legislative rules allow newly elected members of the General Assembly more time to request their first three bills than a returning legislator has, these rules do not actually allow a new legislator more time to have his or her bills drafted.
If possible, every legislator — even the new ones — should try to submit at least one bill request ASAP. This bill request can touch on any subject matter and does not need to be completely conceptualized. The bill drafting process allows for potential issues or problems to rise to the surface making it easier for the legislator to decide whether his or her idea is “workable.” If it becomes apparent that a request isn’t working, the legislator can withdraw it and replace it with a new request, as long as he or she makes that decision on or before the December 1 deadline for returning members or the December 15 deadline for new members.
The OLLS encourages legislators to submit more than three requests by the December deadlines. By doing so, a legislator preserves the flexibility to withdraw and replace at least one of his or her requests after the December deadline without losing a request. For example, if a legislator submits only the three-request minimum by the December deadline and later withdraws one of those requests, the legislator forfeits the withdrawn bill request because the rules allow a legislator to make only two bill requests after the December deadline and before the January deadline. On the other hand, if a legislator submits four bill requests by the December deadline and later withdraws one of those requests, the legislator is left with three bill requests that meet the early request deadline plus the legislator can submit the two requests that are allowed after the early bill request deadline — for a total of five bill requests.
* Every legislator’s first bill must be introduced on the first day of the legislative session (Wednesday, January 7). Every senator’s next two bills must be ready for introduction on the 3rd legislative day (Friday, January 9), and every representative’s next two bills must be ready for introduction on the 7th legislative day (Tuesday, January 13).
† A legislator can ask permission from the House or Senate Committee on Delayed Bills to submit additional bill requests or to waive a bill request deadline. Permission to introduce an additional bill request or a delayed bill in the House requires the approval of at least two of these three persons: the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader. Permission to introduce an additional bill request or a delayed bill in the Senate requires the approval of at least two of these three persons: the President of the Senate, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader.