From: Rep. Gene Pelowski
For anyone planning to visit the Capitol during the upcoming legislative session, there are several key dates to keep in mind. Current rules dictate that a House bill must be introduced and acted upon by a House committee by March 21 of this year in order for it to be considered. Then, it must be acted upon by March 28 in the corresponding Senate committee in order to continue moving forward. The third deadline, April 4, is for the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.
These kinds of rules exist to ensure the legislative process is more accessible to members of the public. Without these rules, bills could be introduced and agreed to almost exclusively through closed door meetings with no transparency. For years weíve worked to be on the forefront of rule reform and public access, because no bill should be passed based solely on a closed door meeting between lawmakers.
Last year, we continued that process by adding clarity and structure to the process by which bills are amended. Rather than allowing an unlimited number of amendments during debate on the House floor, we now require that amendments be pre-filed 24 hours before floor debate is set to begin. This allows members of the Legislature and the public to review the amendments before votes take place. It is critical that the public be allowed to see these amendments and comment on them before we vote on them.
These improvements keep the legislative process open to the public while adding efficiencies to the committee and floor debates. The committee deadlines ensure that bills are vetted before they reach the floor. The pre-filing requirement ensures those bills donít get changed without public consideration. As you plan your visits to the Legislature this session, please donít forget to keep these dates and rules in mind.