The Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Governor’s Office in Washington. Regular sessions are limited to 105 days during odd-numbered years and 60 days during even-numbered years. Bills left pending at the end of a session in an odd-numbered year may be carried over to the next legislative session. The next scheduled session is to start on Monday, January 11, 2021.
The Governor and the Legislature can call for a special session, which may last up to 30 days and during which any bill can be considered. There are discussions of calling a special session due to the coronavirus pandemic. A date has not been announced as of yet.
Upon introduction, a bill may be referred to a committee, though committees are not required to hear every bill referred to them.
There are three types of committee meetings: work sessions, public hearings, and executive sessions. Committees discuss bills during work sessions, receive public testimony during public hearings, and typically vote on a measure during an executive session. A measure may have a work session, public hearing, and executive session during the same meeting.
If passed, a bill is referred to the Rules committee, which then determines if the bill is placed on the calendar. After certain cut-off dates, the Senate Rules Committee may place bills no longer eligible for consideration in the “X” File. Measures on the X-File usually remain in the X-File until the end of the biennium.
Amendments can be made in committee or on the floor, but they must be germane to the original bill.
Budget bills functionally are exempt from this rule, however, due to the broad nature of the bills. When all amendments have been considered and debate is over, the bill is engrossed and moves to third reading, at which point they cannot be amended.
If there are differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, a conference committee is appointed to resolve differences. If a report is passed by the committee, it goes back to the House and Senate for final approval. After the report passes both chambers, the final bill is sent to the Governor for action.
Chester Baldwin, Attorney at Law
Public Affairs Consulting, LLC
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