Where are we in the legislative process? Rep. Abbarno explains.
April 13, 2021
The legislative process can be confusing, especially these final weeks. I wanted to take a moment to help explain.
Your elected state representatives and senators work on a specific schedule with deadlines of when bills must be passed out of committees and from the House and Senate floors. These deadlines keep us moving forward for completion of the people's business within the allotted 105-days in odd-number years and 60-days in even-number years. This “cutoff” calendar is adopted at the beginning of each legislative session. You can view it here to see the cutoff dates.
Sunday, April 11 was our last major deadline. Known as “opposite house cutoff,” it means all bills that have not passed out of both chambers by that date are likely “dead” for the session. Bills necessary to implement the operating, transportation and capital budgets are exempt from the deadline.
The amendatory process
Before bills go to the governor for a signature, they must have passed both the House and Senate. Bills that have not been amended by the opposite chamber and have passed both the House and Senate are sent directly to the governor for his signature. Insiders call these “clean bills,” because no amendments have been attached and no further action is needed once they have passed both chambers, except for the governor's signature.
If a bill passes the House and is amended (changed) in the Senate and then passed by the Senate, it must come back to the House for members to decide whether to concur (approve) the amended version or dispute the amended version. The action is the same if it is bill that passes the Senate and is amended in the House. This period of time is called “concurrence.”
Ping-ponging surviving amended bills in the last two weeks between House and Senate chambers
The last two weeks of session are set aside for concurrence, dispute resolution of a bill and the conference process. We are in that time right now (April 12 – 25). The legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 25.
If you watch the floor sessions between now and April 25, you'll hear several motions, in which we will be deciding the fate of the last surviving bills of the 2021 session that have been amended in their opposite chambers.
Here is a quick Q&A explanation of the concurrence process over the next two weeks:
What Are the Concurrence/Dispute and Conference Processes Used For?
When the House and Senate pass two different versions of the same bill (due to amendment(s), the concurrence/dispute or conference processes are used to resolve the differences and pass a final version of the bill into law. These are undertaken by adopting a motion or series of motions.
To become law, the same bill (same bill number) with the exact same text must pass in both chambers–
If the difference(s) is/are not resolved through these processes, the bill dies.
Concur, Not Concur, Recede and Amend, Conference
The most common motions you will hear are motions to “concur,” “not concur,” “recede” and amend and “conference.”
Motion to concur – House Bill
- The motion to concur is used when the House agrees to adopt the amendments to a House bill that were made and passed by the Senate.
- When the motion carries, the House adopts the amendments made by the Senate.
- The bill then is debated and voted upon on final passage.
Motion to not concur/dispute – House Bill
- The motion to not concur is used when the House does not agree to adopt the amendments to a House bill made in the Senate.
- Because the House refuses to pass the Senate version through this motion, differences still remain between the chambers and the bill is returned to the Senate for further action (or inaction = the bill dies).
- The House typically pairs this motion with other requests or demands to the Senate, which could include:
- A request that the Senate recede (remove) its amendments to the House Bill and pass the House version into law.
- A message that the House insists on its own version of the bill.
- A request to appoint a Conference Committee to resolve differences on the bill.
Motion to recede/amend – Senate Bill
- The motion to recede is made when the House has passed a Senate bill with House amendments, the Senate asks the House to remove the House Amendments and pass the Senate version, and the House agrees.
- This motion requires the House to roll the bill back to Second Reading for amendment to remove its amendments to restore the bill back to the Senate version.
- The bill, now amended back to the Senate version, is then subject to debate and vote on final passage.
Motion to appoint Conference Committee
- This is a process used to appoint members from all four caucuses in both chambers to confer and attempt to resolve differences on a bill. It is customary to use this process to resolve differences on budget bills.
- The conferees may recommend either chamber's version of the bill or come up with a new version of the bill through new amendments (which still must be within scope and object).
- The vote on a Conference Committee version of the bill is only up or down – when voting on the Conference Committee version, the body may not make new amendments (but the bill could be subjected to new conference if the conference process doesn't resolve the differences).
- Once the body votes on the motion to adopt the Conference Committee report, the bill then advances to debate and vote on final passage.
These processes ensure that a majority of legislators in both the House and the Senate fully agree to the language of an amended bill before it is sent to the governor.
Bills to the governor
During session: The governor must sign or veto legislation within five days of transmittal (excluding Sunday), or it becomes law without his signature. Post session: Bills transmitted within the last five days of the session must be acted upon by the governor within 20 days of adjournment (excluding Sundays), or it becomes law without signature.
As always, if you have questions about the process or the status of a bill, please call my office. We are always happy to explain and help you understand if a bill is continuing to advance or not, and where it stands in the legislative process.
It is my great honor to serve you and the citizens of the 20th Legislative District.
Rep. Peter Abbarno
State Representative Peter Abbarno, 20th Legislative District
411 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
360-786-7896 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000