Legisplaining: Final Daze

Sarina EhrgottBlog, Legislature

As the Legislature hits the final week, a lot of work remains for the 104 representatives and senators. Things will move very quickly and even for legislative veterans the action can be tough to follow.

That is true every year, even if the issues change. So to help everyone (especially noobs) navigate the finals days, here are few helpful things to know as the session barrels toward a Thursday night ending.

Budget Rules: The budget dominates everything until passed. Many years, that happens on the final Monday or Tuesday. This year, a fight over education funding could drag it into the final hours. That will mean a lot of backroom negotiations, especially for Republicans, leaving much less time to work through bills on the floor.

The Rule of the Budget: The final budget decisions get made behind closed doors. Once numbers are made public, as happened Monday, changing them becomes exceedingly difficult. Yes, motions will be made but none of them will pass unless approved by leadership beforehand. For our department, this means the grant money we requested is likely not going to pass. There are some long-shot chances but the difficulty is high. Think Nathan Chen after the short program.

Rules Rules: Committees have finished their work and sent any bills they hadn’t passed back to the Rules Committee. The House and Senate will also wipe their boards at some point, sending bills back to their respective Rules. For the remainder of the session, the Rules Committee will prioritize bills by sending batches of them (usually 20) to the floor. This can include bills that committees passed, bills that committees voted against, and even bills that didn’t have a committee hearing. For political junkies, these committees often provide the greatest behind-the-scenes intrigue.

Sine die: The Legislature is required to adjourn by the end of Thursday. When midnight strikes, the session is done. Some years, the Legislature will actually end early. But there have been years when legislators are sprinting to to deliver a revised bill to their chamber for a vote as the final seconds tick away.