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Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

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Senate President Miller wants bills introduced and worked on earlier

By Meg Tully

meg@marylandreporter.com

Senate President Mike Miller

Senate President Mike Miller

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.

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  • ksteve

    Is Miller saying that any Senate bills introduced after the start of the session will be sent to the Senate Rules Committee (which is controlled by the leadership)? If so, this would give him even greater power than now over the output of legislation (and he already has plenty of personal power).

    • Meg Tully

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      President Miller is suggesting that any bills introduced after deadlines will be more strictly enforced in rules. He is asking for Rules to apply a stricter application to reassignment of late introduced bills (and ask standing committees not schedule these bills for hearing after they get out of rules until timely bills have been heard). I don’t remember the exact date bills must be filed to be considered timely, but it is not the same standard as pre-filed, which would be much earlier.
      Specifically, he would like the current Senate guidelines for the administration to be enforced. Those are: state departmental legislation must be pre-filed, and Administration bills must be introduced by the 10th day or they are automatically sent to the Rules Committee. – Meg

      • ksteve

        Thanks for the clarification, but the devil is in the details.

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