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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Ind. Law - [Updated] So, how "dead" are these bills, really?

The Indianapolis Star has a comprehensive story today by Kevin Corcoran and Michele McNeil covering yesterday's activities in the General Assembly. The headline: "Dems boycott all day, dooming 132 bills: Stadium funding, time change wither in House; revival of controversial bills will be a tall order."

The story includes a very nice online table of more than a dozen "dead" bills. A quote from the story:

Bringing bills back from the dead is not easy. Some legislation, including daylight-saving time, could be difficult to resurrect. Others, such as a funding plan for the Colts stadium, could be revived and amended into House Bill 1001, the state budget.
Lesley Stedman Weidenbener's story today in the Louisville Courier Journal reports:
Without action last night, bills that would restrict the sale of cold medicines that can be used to make methamphetamine, increase speed limits on rural highways and provide raises to judges were expected to die.

So were bills that seemed to be at the heart of the partisan standoff. House Bill 1002 would give the governor's inspector general, a largely administrative and investigative position now, limited power to prosecute state employees who commit bribery, fraud and other crimes.

House Bill 1439 would require voters to show a valid, government-issued identification card to vote, which Republicans say is necessary to prevent fraud but which Democrats say will depress voting among poor and older Hoosiers.

Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said those bills are so onerous that Democrats just can't participate in their passage, even by voting against them.

But Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, said yesterday that Democrats need to come to the floor to express their opposition.

"There's nothing wrong with disagreeing. That's part of democracy," he said. "There's also nothing wrong with coming and voting against something you disagree (with)."

Although bills that didn't pass by the midnight deadline appear dead, they could be resurrected if the House takes the unusual step of making wholesale changes in its rules. With just a majority vote, Republicans could alter the deadline for bill passage.

Also, the wording of the bills could be amended into legislation on similar subjects.

For example, the proposal to raise taxes on the state's top-earning casinos, on professional athletes' salaries, and on hotels and rental cars in Indianapolis to fund a Colts stadium could be amended into the state budget bill.

Bauer said yesterday that when Republicans walked out last year, about 80 bills died. Roughly half of those were resurrected in other bills, he said.

But House Rules Chairman Matt Whetstone, R-Brownsburg, said the Senate imposes strict rules on such amendments, and he said Republicans plan to be stricter than their Democratic predecessors in the House.

So, how "dead" are these bills, really? Here are some questions I had for starters:I tried the above questions out on one knowledgeable source and received this very prompt response:
The House killed a lot of bill numbers (unless the 3rd reading deadline is suspended) but not any subject matter. The decisively defeated rule (51 or more votes against on third reading) applies to topics put into house bills (including conference reports). It specifically exempts consideration of a senate bill on the same topic. Nothing was defeated so that rule really doesn’t come into play.

One could insert related matters into a Senate bill as it goes through the House. The biggest obstacle there would be the germaneness rule and the fact that it is being interpreted more tightly in the House this year.

One could also strip a Senate bill, but that requires written consent of the author, coauthors, sponsor, and cosponsors. As one of the House D’s discovered, that can be quite an obstacle. He was himself a coauthor of a bill which had been weakened in committee. He wanted to restore the original purpose of the bill, but the other coauthor turned out to be the key factor: she just said no.

There is no House rule or joint rule restricting the topics a conference committee may deal with, but by custom no topic can be inserted unless it has passed at least one house. I don’t think the Senate has a written policy about this, but I don’t know for certain.

*I remember this quote reproduced in a Feb. 2, 2004 ILB entry:
So this and every year, [Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville] files his bill to follow daylight savings time -- and nothing happens. On purpose. "That bill is going nowhere," Dobis said this week. "But if you know the rules of the game, you can play within them." Dobis' solution works because no one else can pass a bill, or amend the daylight savings change into another bill, as long as his bill on the same topic is pending. The blocking strategy works so well, it has forced critics to throw in the towel.
[Update] Re the above, a knowledgeable reader adds:
The question of the bill pending rule is important for second reading amendments because prior precedent has been that bills were still pending even after the deadline for action had passed. In other words, even a dead bill is still pending. Inserting a house bill into a senate bill without any changes could be blocked. But, since committees routinely combine bills on related topics, that would seem to be the most likely place to begin inserting dead house bills. I’m not aware of any rule, including rules of the various committees, which prohibit combining bills in committee.
That comment caused me to review the House Rules. The "bill pending" rule in the House is #118.
118. Substituting Another Bill. No bill may be amended by annexing to it or incorporating with it any other bill pending before the House.
Other House rules of interest (in regard to reviving dead bills) include:
80. Germane. No motion or proposition on a subject not germane to that under consideration shall be admitted under color of an amendment.

119. Substituting Different Subject Matter—House Bill.

119.1 No amendment proposed to a House bill substituting therein a different subject matter may be accepted, unless accompanied by the written consent of its author and coauthors.

119.2 The House shall reject all House bills that have been amended in the Senate by substituting therein the contents of a different bill or a different subject matter without having first received the written consent of its author and coauthors.

120. Substituting Different Subject Matter—Senate Bill. No House amendment proposed to a Senate bill substituting therein the contents of a different bill or a different subject matter may be accepted unless it is accompanied by the written consent of the author, coauthors, sponsor and cosponsors.

What about amending or suspending the rules? That is covered here:
8. Changing the Rules. Any rule may be rescinded, changed or suspended without previous notice, and a motion for such purpose is in order at any time, except after a vote on the question has been ordered. Such a motion has precedence over all other business. The motion must be seconded by a constitutional majority and must be carried by two-thirds vote of the members of the House, except as provided in Rules 147 [deadline for house bills], 148 [deadline for senate bills] , 162 [deadline for consideration of conference committee reports] and 164.2 [see below]. However, the rescission, change or suspension of any rule recommended by the Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures may be adopted by a constitutional majority of the House.

164.2 [Time on Members’ Desks.] During the first regular session, the budget bill shall be laid over for twenty-four (24) hours after filing. This rule may not be suspended without a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members of the House.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 2, 2005 11:36 AM
Posted to Indiana Law