Today, February 2nd, is the first cut-off of the session! Today is the day that bills have to be out of the policy committees or they die…except when they don’t! The saying “it’s not over ‘til it’s over” is one to keep in mind during the legislative process. When a bill doesn’t make it through a particular cut-off, other mechanisms can keep it alive, such as amending it onto another living bill, doing a budget proviso, or by finding another creative strategy. That said, it is also true that many bills that don’t make it through the cut-off date really are dead and will not be brought back through another means.
The next cut-off date is Tuesday, February 6th, the day bills have to be out of the fiscal committees. There isn’t much time between today’s cut-off (when some bills with a fiscal impact are just getting out of their policy committees), and the cut-off on Tuesday.
The limited amount of time between now and Tuesday, coupled with an extremely high number of bills, means that even though a bill made it out of the policy committee, it could very likely not get scheduled for a hearing and executive action (when bills are voted on in committee) and therefore die. In the meantime, however, there is a major push from pretty much everyone who cares about a bill that has to go to a fiscal committee to convince the chairs of the fiscal committees to hear their bills! It’s a time when the committee chairs feel a lot of pressure and very tough decisions must be made.
While the committees continue their work, we’re also in the midst of quite a bit of floor action, in both the House and Senate. Bills that have already been voted on in their original house are now being referred (or have already been referred) to a committee in the opposite house. It is possible that some bills will get heard in the opposite house before the original house cut-off. However, for the most part, the bills will be heard when committees resume their work after the cut-off for bills to be out of their houses of origin (February 14th!).
Back to the subject of the fiscal committees… The House Appropriations Committee has a long-standing tradition to meet all day on the Saturday between the policy committee cut-off and fiscal cut-off. This year is no exception! Many bills will be heard this weekend, and it is likely that a number of bills that were heard previously will come up for exec action.
The House Appropriations Committee will also meet next Monday and Tuesday (February 5th and 6th) – and perhaps late into the night. We’ll see! The Senate Ways and Means Committee is not scheduled to meet over the weekend, but is scheduled all day on February 5th and 6th.
There is a lot to do and not much time in which to do it!
Please let us know if you have questions or comments.
As a reminder, here are some great resources to help keep you current this legislative session: the Partners for Our Children Bill Tracker, leg.wa.gov, and tvw.org (where you can watch hearings and floor debates).
Have a fantastic week!