Bill Requests – Fact or Fiction?

by Patti Dahlberg

Editor’s note: This article was originally posted on October 15, 2015. It has been updated for this posting.

The 2018 legislative session is only a month or so away, which 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 perhaps gotten a little “lost in translation” here and there over the years. . .

The 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.

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 to avoid duplicating bill drafting efforts by different drafters. If the OLLS identifies potential bill duplicates, the drafter 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 before this notification process can take place. See also “What happens when one bill is just like another?”, posted on December 1, 2016, for more information on duplicate bill requests.

When a legislator submits a bill request, he or she is also “pulling a bill title” or otherwise deciding on the bill’s title.
The OLLS considers the information it receives at the time of the bill request submission to be a starting point for the bill drafting process. This information enables the OLLS 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 based on the subject matter. 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 when it is introduced, which must be a single subject. The drafter and bill sponsor will decide the bill’s title during the drafting process to ensure that the title accurately reflects the contents of the introduced bill. See also “Keeping a Bill Title Constitutional and Informative”, posted March 13, 2014, for more details.

Being a joint prime sponsor on a bill will only count as half a bill request.
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 and “Bill Sponsor Basics and New Rules on Joint Prime Sponsorship of Bills”, posted on December 22, 2016.

Are there any facts regarding bill requests?

As a matter of fact, yes!

  • The first bill request deadline is December 1. The second bill request deadline is the seventh day of session, usually falling on the first Tuesday of the session calendar.
  • 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 may also ask permission from the House or Senate Committee on Delayed Bills to submit additional bill requests or to waive a bill request deadline.
  • To request the five bills allowed by rule, a legislator must meet the bill request deadlines listed in Joint Rule 23(a)(1)—submitting three requests by the December deadline and two requests by the January deadline for a total of five bill requests.
  • 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 a legislator the flexibility to replace a bill request if he or she later withdraws a request. If a legislator only submits one request by the December deadline, then he or she forfeits the other two of the three “early” requests.
  • If a legislator has requested more than five bills before the first bill request deadline, the OLLS will contact that legislator early in December to have him or her identify the five bill requests that the legislator wants the OLLS to continue drafting. Bill drafting will stop on any bill request not designated as one of the legislator’s first five bills until the legislator receives delayed bill authorization for introduction of the bill.

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 article to specific session dates.