The Race is On to the End of the Session: Automatic Rule Changes Pick Up the Pace

By Julie Pelegrin

One week from today, legislators, legislative staff, lobbyists, and capitol reporters can all hit the snooze button and roll over for another hour of sleep. But between now and then, there are several amendments to finish lineread, bills to consider, and differences to resolve. To help ensure that both houses can complete their work by midnight on May 6, the legislative rules automatically speed up or suspend certain procedural requirements in the last few days of the session.

Last 5 Days of Session:

  • Joint Rule 7: One day after a bill is assigned to a conference committee, a majority of either house may demand a conference committee report, and the committee must deliver the report before the close of the legislative day during which the demand is made. If a bill has been assigned to a conference committee at any time during the session and the committee hasn’t turned in a report, the committee must report the bill out within these last five days of session.

Last 3 Days of Session:

  • House Rule 25 (j) (3); Senate Rule 22 (f): Each House and Senate committee chairperson must submit committee reports to the House or Senate front desk as soon as possible after the committee acts on a bill. No more waiting for two or three or five days to turn in the report.
  • House Rule 36 (d); Senate Rule 26 (a): The House and the Senate can consider the amendments made in the second house without waiting for each legislator in the first house to receive a copy of the rerevised bill and for the notice of consideration to be printed in the calendar.
  • House Rule 36 (d); Senate Rule 26 (b): Legislators can vote on conference committee reports as soon as the reports are turned in to their respective front desks—even if the report has not been distributed to the members and has not been calendared for consideration. The usual practice, however, is to try to distribute copies of conference committee reports to legislators before the vote.
  • Senate Rule 18 (d): Throughout most of the session, a Senator may give notice of reconsideration, and the Secretary of the Senate will hold the bill for which the notice was given for up to two days of actual session. During the last three days of session, however, this rule is suspended, and a Senator cannot hold up a bill by giving notice to reconsider.
  • House Rule 33 (b.5): Usually, the House rules only allow technical amendments on third reading; offering a substantial amendment on third reading may result in the bill being referred back to second reading. During the last three days of session, however, a Representative may offer a substantial amendment to a bill on third reading.

Last 2 Days of Session:

  • House Rule 35 (b) and (e): A motion to reconsider usually requires a 2/3 vote to pass. In the last two days of session, however, a motion to reconsider – in a House committee or in the full House – requires only a majority vote.

Before the 117th legislative day, the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate may announce that the House or the Senate, respectively, is in the last three days of the legislative session. This does not mean that either the House or the Senate will adjourn sine die before the 120th legislative day, but it does trigger the rule changes that apply in the last three and last two days of session.

Digest of Bills

With these expedited procedures, bills will probably be moving quickly. If you find yourself wondering which bills passed and what they do, you’ll want to check the digest of bills. The Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) annually publishes the digest, which contains a summary of each bill enacted during the legislative session, organized by subject matter. The OLLS will publish a preliminary digest by May 6 that will include all of the bills that have passed and been signed by the Governor or allowed to become law by that date. The OLLS will publish the final digest once the 30-day period for Governor action is passed. Copies of the final digest will be available in Room 091 in the Capitol basement and posted on the OLLS website.