2014 cut-off dates – When and how bills will move this year

January 16, 2014

Lawmakers introduced another 206 bills on Wednesday, bringing the total number of measures before them to 3,003, including carryovers from the 2013 session.  Many of these bills won’t see the light of day, which prompts the question:  Just how does the legislature manage such a large workload?  Here’s how it works.

Deadlines for committee and floor action set the cut-off dates, after which bills not acted on are considered dead.  No piece of legislation is truly “dead” until the legislature adjourns at the end of its two-year cycle, but cut-off dates drive the strategies and tactics members use to move bills through the legislative process.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 8408 sets the deadlines for this session.  The cut-off dates for 2014 are:

• Friday, February 7, 2014, the 26th session day, is the cut-off date for committee reports on bills in their House of Origin. After this date, House committees may only consider Senate bills that have passed over to the House, and Senate committees may only consider House bills. Fiscal and transportation committees are exempt from this deadline.

• Tuesday February 11th, the 30th day, is the final day to read in fiscal and transportation committee reports. This includes bills passed out by the Finance, Transportation and Appropriations committees in the House, and the Ways and Means and Transportation committees in the Senate.

• Tuesday, February 18th, at 5:00 p.m. of the 37th day is the deadline for floor action on House bills in the House and Senate bills in the Senate.

• Friday, February 28th, the 47th day, is the deadline for committee reports on bills from the opposite chamber. Once again, fiscal and transportation committees are exempt from this cut-off.

• Monday, March 4th, the 50th day, is the deadline for committee reports on bills from the opposite chamber by the House and Senate fiscal and transportation committees. 

• Finally, on Friday, March 7th, the 54th day, neither chamber may consider any measures other than initiatives from the people to the legislature, budget-related bills, and matters related to differences in bills passed by both houses. 

One of the key “loopholes” in this last deadline is “matters pertaining to the budget and matters necessary to implement the budget.”  Bill writers in Olympia usually find ways to relate nearly any bill to the budget, if the measure has enough support in either the House or the Senate.

These are internal house rules--they do not have the force of law and are not enforced by the courts, so they can always be suspended by a majority vote. The bottom line: cut-off dates are tools for managing a massive workload, but they never get in the way of the political will of a majority of lawmakers.