Bill Requests – Fact or Fiction?

by Patti Dahlberg

The 2016 legislative session is only about two and a half months away, and that means the bill drafting season is quickly heating up. This seems like a good time to address a few items regarding bills and bill requests that may have gotten a little “lost in translation” here and there over the years. . .

fact or fictionThe legislator who submits the first bill request on a subject gets first ‘dibs’ on bill requests in that subject area and can prevent other legislators from submitting a similar bill request.
Fiction. The Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) records each bill request into a bill tracking system as a legislator submits it and then assigns the request to a drafter according to the subject of the request. The OLLS attempts to assign seemingly similar bill requests to the same drafter. This helps in identifying potentially duplicate bill requests, which in turn helps the office avoid duplicating bill drafting efforts by different drafters. If potential bill duplicates are identified, the OLLS will also try to notify the affected sponsors so that sponsors can decide whether they wish to introduce duplicate bills. But the office will not refuse a bill request on the grounds that it may be the same as another legislator’s request.

Because of confidentiality concerns, the sponsors of the duplicate bill requests will need to agree to allow the drafter to share some information about their bill requests during this notification process. See Ask OLLS column “What happens if I make the same bill request as another legislator?”, posted on September 22, 2011, for more information on duplicate bill requests.

When a legislator puts in a bill request, he or she is also “pulling a bill title” or otherwise deciding on the bill’s final title.
Fiction. The OLLS considers the information it receives at the time of the bill request to be a starting point for the bill request. This information enables the Office to describe the subject of the bill request in order to enter it into the bill tracking database, assign a tracking number, and assign a drafter. Practicality dictates that the bill request will be referred to in some manner during the drafting process, but it is important for all to understand that whatever a bill is referred to during drafting is not the bill’s title. A bill’s title is the official, legal title of the bill, which must be a single subject. The drafter and bill sponsor will make the bill title decision later in the drafting process to ensure that the title accurately reflects the contents of the introduced bill. See Ask OLLS column “Why is the title of a bill so important?”, posted October 13, 2011, for more details.

Being a joint prime sponsor on a bill will only count as half a bill request.
Fiction. Joint prime (or co-prime) sponsorship occurs when two legislators in the same house decide to jointly and equally sponsor a bill as it moves through the legislative process in that house. On the bill itself, joint prime sponsorship is indicated by the word “and” between the first two names listed on the bill. The rules concerning joint prime sponsorship are similar in the House (House Rule 27A) and Senate (Senate Rule 24A) and both state:

(3) For purposes of any limitations on the number of bills that a member may request or introduce, bills with joint prime sponsors shall be counted as being requested and sponsored by both the prime sponsor and the joint prime sponsor. If either the prime sponsor or the joint prime sponsor has already requested or introduced the total number of bills authorized within any bill limitation, such sponsor shall obtain permission from the delayed bill committee to exceed such limits prior to requesting or introducing such a bill. (Emphasis added)

In other words, the joint prime sponsored bill counts as one of each legislator’s five bill requests. For additional information regarding joint prime sponsorship, see “To Prime or to Joint Prime”, posted December 22, 2011.

Are there any facts regarding bill requests?

Facts2As a matter of fact, yes!
  • The first bill request deadline is December 1. The second bill request deadline is the seventh day of session — Tuesday, January 19, for the 2016 Session.
  • Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A) limits legislators to 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. A legislator can also ask permission from the House or Senate Committee on Delayed Bills to submit additional bill requests or to waive a bill request deadline.
  • Because Joint Rule 24(b)(1)(A) allows a legislator to submit only two bill requests after the December deadline, legislators are encouraged to submit more than three bill requests before that deadline. Submitting more than three requests by Dec. 1 may allow the legislator the flexibility to replace a bill request if he or she later withdraws a request. If a legislator submits fewer than three bill requests by the December deadline, he or she forfeits those requests.
  • To request the five bills allowed by rule, a legislator must meet the bill request deadlines listed in Joint Rule 23(a)(1). Basically, three requests by the December deadline and two requests in by the January deadline.

For additional information on making and keeping bill requests, see “Bill Requests – Making and keeping the five allowed by rule”, posted September 1, 2011. Please disregard any references in the 9/1/11 article to specific session dates.

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