When bills are first introduced, they are referred to the appropriate committee of cognizance. As we have discussed before, that process it determined by the Legislative Commissioners’ Office in conjunction with the screening committees. What we have not yet discussed is the technical makeup of the committees, when they meet, and how they determine their schedules.
The Committees have been established by the session rules, which also define the subject matter for each committee. The joint rules for the 2017 legislative session allowed for twenty-two joint standing committees and three statutory committees. Members are appointed to a committee on or before the fifth day of regular session of the first year of a term, and the appointment lasts the legislator’s full term. Leaders from both parties and both chambers are ex-officio members of all committees and have the right to attend all meetings and deliberations, but they do not have the ability to vote on committee matters.
Standing Committees shall consist of not more than nine senators and not more than thirty-five representatives, with the exception of Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding, which can consist of thirteen senators and maximum of forty-five representatives. The Judiciary Committee is allowed eleven senators and thirty-five representatives.
Committees are divided into two groups, Group A and Group B, which help designate their calendar. Statutory Committees include legislative management and Executive Nominations. Group A committees meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, while Group B committees meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Session rules will provide various deadlines that the committees must abide by. The rules allow for Appropriations, Finance, and Judiciary to meet on any day. In order for any other committee to meet on a different day, they must send a letter showing significant need for the meeting to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
To schedule a meeting, a notice must be supplied to the clerk of each chamber at least one day in advance and, when practical, given to the Legislative Bulletin clerk for inclusion in the bulletin and posted on the CGA website. There is an exception to the one-day notice requirement: if an announcement is made from a chamber floor with at least one member agreeing to the meeting, a meeting may be held. In the event of inclement weather, if the Chairs determine that the conditions are likely to reduce the attendance of the public or committee members, they may decide to cancel a meeting. A chairperson or vice-chair must convene all meetings within 15 minutes of the scheduled meeting time or the meeting is deemed cancelled. When delay is inevitable, Chairs can avoid cancellation by convening and immediately recessing a meeting.
There have been conversations on whether the General Assembly should reduce the number of committees. During a regular session day it is not uncommon for 2-3 committees to meet at the same time, making it difficult for members to be present for full meetings. Currently the committees at the General Assembly include: Aging; Appropriations; Banking; Children; Commerce; Education; Energy & Technology; Environment; Executive & Legislative Nominations; Finance, Revenue, & Bonding; General Law; Government Administration & Elections; General Law; Higher Education & Employment; Housing; Human Services; Insurance & Real Estate; Internship; Judiciary; Labor & Public Employees; Legislative Management; Planning & Development; Public Health; Public Safety & Security; Regulations Review; Transportation; and Veterans Affairs. If changes are made to the committees that would occur in the session rules passed on opening day, currently all committees have their own webpage containing all relevant materials and membership lists.
Fun Fact: When a bill (having previously been voted on and passed by its original committee of cognizance) is amended on the chamber floor, it may be determined that it needs to be approved by a different committee. At that point the bill will be referred to its new committee of cognizance where the legislative process will resume.