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Monday, January 04, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - Operation of the Indiana General Assembly, and how a bill becomes a law, Part II

Part I, from Dec. 22nd, looked at the Indiana Constitution and then moved on to bill introduction. It ended with a pointer to the 2016 Indiana General Assembly webpage of bills for the 2016 session.

The list has nearly doubled since Dec. 22, when a slew of Senate bills were listed for the first time. But no House bills have yet been added. The difference may be that the House does not make a bill public until it has "gone across the front desk" - meaning that it is read and assigned to Committee while the General Assembly is convened. (Can anyone confirm?)

A look at the current list of introduced bills, all Senate, shows that the committee assignment of each bill is given. For example, clicking on Senate Bill 1, then clicking on "Bill Actions," shows that it is assigned to Judiciary. "Latest Version" reveals that it is a 119-page bill: "Replaces administrative law judges and environmental law judges with an administrative court that conducts administrative hearings and other duties formerly conducted by administrative law judges and environmental law judges."

The next step for any bill after introduction and committee assignment is what happens to it in committee. The standing committees are listed here. Notice the "Upcoming Meetings/Calendar" box on the right side of the page.

Looking at the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee page, you can see a link to all the bills currently assigned to the committee.

The first meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee is set for Jan. 13th. Currently, four bills will be considered. If you click on Agenda, you can see the topics of the four bills. Note also that three of the four bills were authored by committee members. The fourth, SB 36, Handgun licenses and alcohol, is the subject of a story in today's Indianapolis Star.

It is also useful to know that the GA website allows you to quickly see all the bills introduced by a specific legislator, eg Senator Steele.

The committee hearings are videocast, most of them are also archived. If you are interested in a bill, you will want to watch the committee hearing. The committee will commonly vote on a bill at the end of testimony and discussion by members, but it may be amended, or held over.

Many bills never get a committee hearing at all. Sometimes this may be because it is introduced by a member of the minority party, or it may be because the author never intended the bill to move. The committee chair sets the agenda.

How to know what bills to follow.

Read the papers. In the past week a number of stories have highlighted (Senate) bills introduced so far. For example:

In addition, read the list of introduced bills yourself. Or go to the committee sites where bills you are interested in will likely be assigned. Keep a list of bills you are interested in and check on them frequently.

Sometimes, reporters will not give the bill number of proposals they describe, which means you will need to try to track down the bill number yourself if you want to read the bill.

A caution. This is the "short" session of the General Assembly. Events move very quickly. See "'Fast and furious' session on tap for Indiana lawmakers" by Dan Carden of the NWI Times.

Next time. Floor action.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 4, 2016 01:28 PM
Posted to Indiana Government