LegiSplaining: Reading the Reading Calendars

davidwicaiBlog, Legislature

Both the House and Senate have different reading calendars, which dictate how bills are handled. These can be valuable in navigating a bill’s process.

Although the two chambers have the same calendars, they handle them slightly differently. Below is a brief explanation of the different calendars.

1st Reading: This is the first stop for a bill on its journey. The clerk reads the short title and the bill almost always get assigned to the Rules Committee. Only one vote is needed to accept all of the bills introduced on first reading.

2nd Reading: This is the first variation between the two chambers. In the House, which tends to move more slowly, the committee hearing is considered the second reading. But in the Senate, bills on the 2nd Reading Calendar often receive substantial debate. Often, if a bill passes the 2nd Reading, it will pass the Senate. If a bill does pass the 2nd Reading calendar, it moves to the 3rd Reading calendar and will be voted on again the following day. (Senators can waive this rule and simply vote once on 2nd and 3rd, which often happens during the final days).

3rd Reading: Final vote on the bill in both chambers, and any bill that passes either moves to the other chamber or, if it has passed both chambers, to the governor. Floor debate in the House happens exclusively on the 3rd Reading calendar. It’s not uncommon for the Senate to also debate a controversial bill again on the 3rd Reading calendar, and senators can also vote differently. This actually offers some political cover to senators whose constituents may be split (or even opposed to a bill), because they can vote against it on second but for it on third, or vice-versa.

Circled Bills: Both 2nd and 3rd Reading calendars will have bills that are circled, usually show with an asterisk. These bills have paused for various reasons. Sometimes sponsors were simply not on the floor when the bill came up for debate, or they may be trying to find enough support to pass it. Bills with fiscal notes will often get circled in the opposite chamber (i.e. a House bill in the Senate) until funding is approved.

Consent Calendar: This requires a unanimous committee recommendation, but if given the bill will be placed on this calendar. If nobody objects within three days, the bill passes without floor debate.

Concurrence Calendar: Bills on this calendar have passed one chamber but amended in the other. The amendments will be considered, and either accepted or rejected. If accepted, the bill passes. If rejected, the bill will be sent back to the other chamber to remove the amendments … and then things can get really confusing.

Time Certain Calendar: These bills or resolutions are usually ceremonial, and will be scheduled for “debate” and a “vote” when the person or group being honored is scheduled to visit the chamber.