ICYMI: A Refresher on the Legislative Rules

With the end of the second full week of the legislative session, committees of reference are looking at calendars full of bills and both houses will soon be spending hours debating bills in committee of the whole and on third reading. While there’s still a little breathing room, we at LegiSource decided it would be helpful to provide a quick refresher on the legislative rules: in general, for committees of reference, for committee of the whole, and for third reading. This collection of articles from the LegiSource archives provides a relatively short primer on the rules and quick references to the rules that are most often invoked. Remember: You can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules!

The Principles of Parliamentary Procedure – a Stepping Stone to Learning the Rules

Obviously, there are many legislative rules, and it’s difficult to learn and remember all of them. You may want to start by learning the basic principles behind legislative procedure. Knowing the principles may help you understand and remember the purposes behind the rules, even if you can’t remember each specific rule. The introduction to Mason’s Manual sets forth these ten principles for group decision making:

  • The group must have the authority to take the action it is trying to take.
  • The group must meet to take action.
  • All members of the group must receive proper notice of the meeting.
  • A quorum must be present at the meeting.
  • There must be a question before the group that the group is authorized to decide.
  • There must be opportunity to debate the question.
  • The question must be decided by taking a vote.
  • For an action to be taken or a question decided, there must be a majority vote of the group.
  • There can be no fraud, trickery, or deception resulting in injury to any member.
  • To be valid, an action or decision by the group must not violate any applicable law or constitutional provision.

Making Sense of Committee Rules

As the committees of reference swing into action for the 2014 regular legislative session, some legislators may be struggling to raise their committee rule IQ. This article is a short overview of the more important committee procedural rules to help guide you through the coming hours of committee hearings.

Second Reading and the Committee of the Whole

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “committee of the whole” as “the whole membership of a legislative house sitting as a committee and operating under informal rules.” But just what are those rules and how informal are they?

Third Reading – Overview of Rules

The legislator’s bill has passed the committee of reference, passed the Committee of the Whole on second reading, and is finally calendared for third reading and final passage. There are fewer third-reading rules to learn, but knowing these rules is crucial if the bill sponsor wants to ensure that the bill safely finishes its journey through the House or the Senate.