By Meg Tully
Senate President Mike Miller is making changes to chamber rules that he hopes will result in a busier workload during the early weeks of the legislature’s 90-day annual session.
“We respect and appreciate the fact that we are part-time General Assembly,” Miller said. “We need to make each of those workdays productive. We're battling against human nature, which for most people means putting off issues that could be dealt with today.”
Miller said he hopes that the governor’s office and state agency leaders will work to ensure their bills are introduced before the session begins, as opposed to waiting until later in session. Many of the bills coming from the administration make sweeping policy changes.
The new rules call for members of the Senate to request bill drafting by Nov. 15 for any bills they would like to file before the start of session. He is also calling for more bills to be sent to the Senate Rules Committee if they are not introduced in a timely fashion – a move which could slow or stop a bill from getting a hearing.
Miller instructed committee chairs to refrain from scheduling late-filed bills for hearings until all bills introduced on time have been heard.
And he is also proposing an earlier “crossover” date, which is the date by which bills are sent to the other chamber. It is being moved from the 76th day of session to the 69th day.
Administration bills have been late
Senate Republican Leader David Brinkley said that the administration has basically flouted the legislature’s rules by introducing bills well past the deadline. Last session, he pointed to the major gun control policy bill and the gas tax increase as examples of later introductions.
“They end up being very major policy decisions introduced late in session, and they become very consuming,” Brinkley said.
He supports efforts to change that because it allows more public involvement.
“Even if I disagree with something, I’ll be supportive of the opportunity for the legislature to debate it,” he said.
In a memo to Senate members, Miller said he had met with House Speaker Mike Busch to discuss the changes and agreed on an earlier crossover date.
He also said he hopes the House will add a policy like the Senate has of requiring the administration to pre-file bills.
Busch could not be reached for comment.
House Republican Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke said he had not heard from Busch about any changes that might be coming. But he said the House Republican Caucus had discussed the issue and especially feel that bills coming from the governor should be given enough time for vetting. Those bills are weighty policy issues that need “full and robust debate,” he said. “They get rushed through instead of debated.”
Miller said that he understands some bills require emergency action, and the new rules will still allow that. But he wants to encourage earlier action for anything that can be dealt with at the start of session.
“As of the second day, I want to have hearings on bills,” Miller said.