It's hard to believe, but it's day 46 of the 105-day legislative session. With the midway point fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to explain where we are at in the legislative process and what you can expect from your citizen Legislature in the upcoming months.
Session Cutoff Calendar
Believe it or not, the Legislature is actually a pretty organized place. Each year, state lawmakers set deadlines for themselves to provide consistency for the House and Senate. This helps the legislative process run smoothly and ensures a level of predictability for anyone who wants to be involved.The Legislature is guided each year by an official Session Cutoff Calendar. This document is approved at the very beginning of the legislative session. On this calendar is a set of six cutoff dates. These are important deadlines that allow state lawmakers to narrow their focus and the amount of bills they have to consider.
Policy committee cutoff
The first deadline was policy committee cutoff on February 20. All policy bills without a fiscal impact must pass out of their respective committees or they are generally considered "dead" for the year. A "dead" bill can best be described as one that will likely not move forward in the Legislature in its current form.
One of the results of policy committee cutoff is many bills move from policy committees to fiscal committees (Appropriations, Capital Budget, Finance, Transportation and General Government and Information Technology). Fiscal committees handle bills that have some kind of fiscal impact on the state. Fiscal impact generally means $50,000 or more, but there is no set rule.
Fiscal committee cutoff
This leads us to our next deadline: fiscal committee cutoff on February 27. This is when all bills with a fiscal impact must pass out of the previously mentioned fiscal committees. As you might expect, and as this House calendar shows, these committees have been very busy this week.
House Rules Committee
Once bills pass out of policy and/or fiscal committees, it doesn't mean they go straight to the House floor. Most measures go to the House Rules Committee, where they sit until someone from that committee "pulls" them to the House floor. I sit on this committee. If a bill is pulled, it can move to the House floor for a full vote of 98 state representatives. It takes at least 50 votes to pass legislation.
Here are the upcoming deadlines for the Legislature:
- March 11 – house of origin cutoff. All House and Senate bills must pass out of their respective chambers or they are generally considered "dead" for the year. The exception to this rule are bills "necessary to implement the budget."
- April 1 – opposite house policy committee cutoff. As the House and Senate consider bills from the opposite chamber, all bills without a fiscal impact must pass out of their respective policy committees or they are generally considered "dead" for the year.
- April 7 – opposite house fiscal committee cutoff. Bills from the opposite chamber with a fiscal impact must pass out of their respective fiscal committees.
- April 15 – opposite house cutoff. All Senate bills in the House, and House bills in the Senate, must pass out of the opposite chamber. Again, the exception to this rule are bills "necessary to implement the budget."
- April 26 – Last day of the legislative session.
"Dead or alive" bill list
At the policy committee cutoff each year, Washington House Republicans put together a "dead or alive" bill list. These are bills we think the public might be interested in learning more about. You can find the list in this blog post.
Tracking and commenting on bills
It's easy to track and comment on bills. If you go to this website, you can register for an account that allows you to customize bill-tracking lists.
If you want to share your views on bills, the process is even easier. All you have to do is go to this website, enter a bill number and click on the "Comment on this bill" icon. This will allow you to say if you support, oppose or are neutral on legislation, and provide you an opportunity to share your opinions. This information will be shared with your state lawmakers.
If there is a bill you are interested in and you see it on a committee agenda, please contact my office and I can explain how you can be involved in the legislative process.
Following House floor action
Save the date: April 2
I will be hosting another telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, April 2, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. I will provide you the call-in number in future e-mail updates.
In your service,
39th Legislative District
(360) 786-7967 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000