When the next General Assembly convenes in January their first order of business will be adoption of the joint rules. The rules remain in effect for the duration of the biennium and can have an enormous impact on the process. The joint rules establish the committees, their schedules, the structure of leadership, the formalities such as what motions must be made, how bills are to be drafted, and the various deadlines for legislative proposals. Typically, the most important thing defined by the joint rules are the committee deadlines. The deadlines establish checkpoints that every bill proposal must pass to stay alive. Understanding these deadlines is a necessity for all advocates and can give you a huge advantage when trying to pass or kill legislation.
We have included the deadline charts from the 2017 & 2018 legislative sessions, and will refer to their columns to illustrate the process.
(Col. 1) Proposed bill deadline. The proposed bill deadline is the last day that an individual legislator can introduce a bill. A proposed bill is introduced by an individual legislator and is not a fully drafted bill, but rather a short statement in non-statutory language expressing what the legislator would like the relevant legislative committee to consider in the way of legislation on a particular subject.Legislative sessions begin on Wednesdays, and in a long session this deadline will typically occur on the second Friday. In a short session this deadline will occur on the first Friday, just three days after convening. This is done intentionally in order to limit the number of proposals in the legislature’s condensed session.
(Col. 2, 3, 6, 6a, & 7) Committee bill deadlines. In order for a proposed bill to continue in the process, the committee of cognizance must draft it into a committee bill. If there has been no public hearing held on the proposed bill this deadline takes effect sooner. Legislators typically have 7 days to petition this deadline. If the proposed bill hashad a public hearing, then this deadline occurs 17 days before the committee’s JF deadline in a long session, and 10 days before the JF deadline in a short session. This deadline is adjusted slightly to account for ‘A’ & ‘B’ committees, which meet on different days (col. 6a). According to the 2018 joint rules ‘A Committees’ meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and ‘B Committees’ meet on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.
(Col. 4) Raised bill deadline. The raised bill deadline is the last day for a committee to raise a concept. Concepts to be raisedare not based on any specific proposed bill; rather, the committee votes on its own initiative to have the bill drafted on a subject within the committee’s cognizance (the subject matter areas assigned to that committee). The raised bill deadline is an important deadline to pay attention to, after that date you can expect no new proposals to come out of committee.
(Col. 5) Subject matter public hearing deadline on a proposed bill. This is the last day for a committee to schedulea public hearing on a proposed bill. Public hearings must be held before a bill can be voted on, so if a hearing is not scheduled by this deadline the committee cannot take further action. This deadline occurs 21 days before the JF deadline in a long session, and 14 days before the JF deadline in a short session.
(Col. 7) Committee bill deadline for proposed bills that have had a public hearing. This is the final date for a committee to draft a proposed bill into a committee bill, which we have already covered.
(Col. 8) JF Deadline. This is often the deadline most advocates and legislators rely on. JF stands for “Joint Favorable.” Committees vote out bills with a motion of “Joint Favorable” or “Joint Favorable Substitute” (JF with substitute language). A bill can be JF’ed straight to the floor (sent to the House if a House bill, to the Senate if a Senate bill), or it can be JF’ed to another committee (referred to as a “change of reference”). If the bill is JF’ed to another committee after its JF deadline, the committee must take action within three regular session days of the referring chamber, or within seven calendar days after the motion is made (whichever comes first). Legislators also have seven days after the JF deadline to petition (Col. 9) the committee to report out a bill. After this point, any legislation not reported out by the committee is dead.
All deadlines take effect at 5:00pm on the day of, and if the required action is not taken the bill is dead. Of course, the joint rules are always subject to some change with new legislatures and leadership but the general concept we have outlined here has remained fairly consistent.