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“We’re going to be tugged in lots of directions,” says House Public Safety Chair Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. “This is possibly going to be a pretty brutal session.” (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)
“We’re going to be tugged in lots of directions,” says House Public Safety Chair Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. “This is possibly going to be a pretty brutal session.” (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)

Bar Buzz: New rules could slow bills down

New House rules likely will slow down the process of getting bills passed, even as the Legislature has adopted some of its tightest deadlines in memory.

But what is old is new again. The new bill-referral rules simply reintroduce a more traditional process.

Last year, the House adopted procedure that moved bills via memo from House Ways and Means to other committees. It was criticized right out of the gate on opening day last year, when House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, gave a long, angry, filibuster-style speech decrying it for lacking transparency and making it difficult to track legislation.

So this year, the old rules were readopted. It means bill referrals no longer will be issued out of Ways and Means. Instead bills will be referred by the speaker on the House floor to which ever committee or subcommittee needs to hear it.

Once that committee or division deals with the legislation, the bill returns to the floor, either to be re-referred to its next committee stop or sent to the General Register to await a floor vote.

The rules also require a committee report to be prepared and adopted on the House floor each time a bill gets a re-referral to another committee or the General Register.

Ways and Means Committee will no longer refer bills to other committees by memo, as was done last year. Instead, that committee will refer bills to the House floor with its recommendation as to which committee should hear it next.

“So we can expect bills to take a little longer going through the process, as they will have to be motioned through the floor to the next committee,” House Public Safety Committee Administrator Jamael Lundy told that committee members on Feb. 12.

House Public Safety Chair Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, told his committee that he will try to push many bills through his committee before the first March 13 deadline. That might require some evening hearings early in the session, he warned members.

“We’re going to be tugged in lots of directions,” Mariani said. “This is possibly going to be a pretty brutal session.”

This year’s legislative committee deadlines are:

  • March 13: Committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin.
  • March 20: Committees must act favorably on bills or companions bills that met the first deadline in the other body.
  • April 3: Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.
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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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