Too Many Bills! When and How to Delay

by Darren Thornberry & Patti Dahlberg

Now that you’ve met most of the bill deadlines set by rule, it’s time to consider taking care of a few pesky bill limits and deadlines that aren’t quite working for you this year. The five-bill limit and the filing date deadlines imposed by Joint Rules 23 and 24 were implemented to keep bills and other legislative work moving through the legislative process in a timely manner. But these rules also allow some bills to be exempted from these bill limits and deadlines. In a perfect session, a legislator might need only five bills to accomplish what he or she wants to see done in a session; and, of course, these bills would sail through all readings and committees and meet all deadlines with ease. The Governor’s desk would groan under the weight of so much gleaming legislation so early in session!

We can dream!

However, sometimes five bills just aren’t enough. Or a bill is submitted after a request deadline. Or a bill is more complex than expected. Or, after introduction, a bill simply needs more time to meet the remaining deadlines. When any of these situations occur, a legislator needs to obtain delayed bill authorization for the bill to be drafted or to continue through the legislative process. Delayed authorization is needed when:

  • A legislator submits a bill request after the bill request deadline, the bill request exceeds the legislator’s five-bill limit, or the legislator is being added as a joint prime sponsor to a bill in the first house. Any of these circumstances will cause the legislator to exceed the five bill-limit. This requires a waiver of one or more “bill limits” (and possibly bill deadline dates).
  • A bill request requires additional time for drafting, necessitating a waiver of one or more “bill deadlines”.
  • An introduced bill is not scheduled for a hearing or final vote in time to meet the committee or final passage deadline. This requires a waiver of one or more “bill deadlines”.

The process for obtaining “delayed” or “late” bill authorization starts with the Speaker’s or the President’s office.  A legislator must request permission for delayed status for a bill from the House or Senate Committee on Delayed Bills (i.e., Leadership).  At the beginning of the legislative session, House and Senate Leadership designate a specific process for legislators to follow when requesting delayed bill authorization and the leadership staff who will be able to answer questions on the process. The Speaker or President’s staff should be able to provide this information.

Leadership reviews all requests for delayed bill authorization and may request additional information from sponsors before deciding whether to grant approval. In both the House and the Senate, the approval process has two steps. If, as step one, Leadership initially grants approval, leadership staff notifies the Office of Legislative Services (OLLS) that Leadership has granted preliminary approval. This gives preliminary approval on the request to add a legislator as a joint-prime sponsor, to draft a new bill, to continue to draft a bill that is already being drafted but is unable to meet its introduction deadline, or, for bills that have been introduced and now need additional deadlines waived, to allow the bill to remain on the calendar in its current position. Upon receipt of preliminary approval, the OLLS creates the official delayed bill letter according to Leadership’s directions regarding the limits and deadlines waived, including any specified deadline dates, for signature by the applicable Committee on Delayed Bills. To complete the second step of the process, at least two of the three members of the applicable Committee on Delayed Bills must sign the official delayed bill letter before delayed status is considered approved and the bill can be introduced or, if already introduced, continue through the legislative process.

Bills that need any type of delayed bill authorization can’t move to the next step in the legislative process until official delayed bill authorization is granted in the form of the official signed letter.  Once Leadership signs the official letter, the letter is attached to the bill so that at every subsequent step during the process it is easily ascertained that the bill has delayed bill approval and, if new deadline dates are specified, what those new deadline dates are.