Thursday, May 02, 2013

Impending doom for hundreds of bills: House deadlines rapidly approaching

The Texas capitol these days is like a hospice for dying legislation of all stripes, with bills perishing in plague-level numbers and many hundreds more slated next week for their inevitable date with the always-hooded executioner. It's a sad time. You hear people talk about their "babies" dying. If the pink dome were a hospital there'd be gurneys filled with legislators' expiring progeny lining the hallways. But deadlines also separate the wheat from the chaff. Legislation that's still alive after next week has an excellent chance of becoming law.

Just so Grits readers are as educated about the process as the frantic lobbyists desperately combing the Texas capitol these days trying to salvage their legislation from impending doom, here are the deadlines looming for legislation to pass that are keeping every lobbyist in town awake at night:

May 6: Last day for House committees to report House bills
May 7: Calendars committee issues final floor calendar
May 9: Last day for House to vote on House bills and House resolutions on second reading
May 15: Last House local calendar issued
May 16: Last day Senate bills sent to House still have time to pass
May 17: Last day for House to vote on local and consent calendar with HBs
May 17: First day Senate can vote on an item the same day it goes on the intent calendar
May 18: Last day for House committees to report Senate bills
May 19: Last House calendar issued with Senate bills
May 20: Last House local and consent calendar issued with SBs
May 21: Last day for House to vote on Senate bills on second reading
May 22: Last day for Senate to consider all House bills and HRs.
May 22: Last day for House to consider SBs on local and consent.
May 23: Last day for Senate amendments to HBs to be distributed in the House
May 24: Last day for House to act on Senate amendments
May 27: Sine Die

What this means in the near term is that four days from now on Tuesday, the House Calendars Committee will issue its final floor calendar with House bills on it. Any House bill without a Senate companion which has not been scheduled for a floor vote by then will be technically dead, revived only if the author is able to amend it onto some other bill. Senators have a bit more flexibility because even if they had more rules and deadlines they suspend them so much it doesn't matter. Still, it's getting terribly late for everyone.

The end-of-session calendar is a brutal grim reaper, snuffing out good and bad legislation alike in vast numbers with broad swings of its scythe, starting on the west side of the building and moving inexorably east. This has one important merit, though. It forces legislators to act. It's a big reason why the Texas Legislature isn't as gummed up and incapable of passing bills as Washington D.C.. Even so, this year the House has been painfully slow setting legislation on the floor, a fact that Texas Monthly's Paul Burka suggested is a conscious effort by the leadership to minimize the amount of Tea-Party generated legislation that passes. The Senate side this session has proven much more adept at passing bills in a timely fashion and the result has been the Senate dominating the state's agenda in a way that few anticipated before the year began.


TEM said...

Interesting. What does it mean when a bill is "engrossed"?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Engrossed means it passed the first chamber. Enrolled means it passed the second.