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Belton: Session timeline is key
Dave Belton

The 11th week of Session was - again - mostly committee work preparing for the last day of Session which will be the 29th of March.

One of the wonderful things about our state constitution is that we meet for only 40 days a year. The reason this is good is because – unlike Congress – we have a Constitutionally driven deadline and thus must get our business done in a certain amount of time.

Most states meet from January to April. Georgia meets for fewer days than most, but four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming) meets even less than us. Four states (Texas, North Dakota, Nevada and Minnesota) meet once every other year, making it very difficult to budget properly. Ten states (Deleware, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) meet about half the year and a few (California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio) meet nearly year-round. Currently, 31 legislators are controlled by Republicans, 13 by Democrats, and five are split. Nebraska is very different in that they only have one Chamber and everyone runs non-partisan. Amongst the Governors, 33 states are controlled by Republicans, 16 by Democrats, and one by an Independent (Alaska).

The bad thing about only meeting 40 days is that any time you have a deadline you inevitably wait until the day to complete your work. Thus, many of the big-ticket items that were moved by one Chamber have still not been “agreed” to by the other Chamber. Most bills that Crossed Over to the other Chamber (from the House to the Senate or vice versa) are altered by that other Chamber, at least slightly. Many times these are good changes that perfect the bill. Other times these changes “gut” the bill or add measures that greatly alter or weaken the bill. The bill must then go back to the original Chamber and the change must be “agreed” to by the original Chamber. If the original Chamber does not like the change, they “insist” on their original measure. If these changes cannot be worked out, the bill may go to “Conference” where a few senior leaders from the House and Senate get in a room and work out a compromise. Otherwise, the bill dies altogether. It’s amazing, but every bill must be agreed to and voted on at least nine times before it becomes law.

If all this sounds complicated…it is. Our Founding Fathers wanted to make it hard, not easy, to write laws. Hopefully, this ensures that the laws we write are actually good ones.

Probably the best bill that passed the House this week was a Rural Broadband bill that allows EMC’s to get into the internet business and also provides grants to local counties and cities to provide better internet. The major bills that are still in play include the ATL Transit bill, a New Voting Machine bill that would create a paper trail for cast ballots, the Hidden Predator Act, the Hands Free bill, another internet bill that encourages more Soft Cell Towers, an Immigration bill, and the Big Budget which has still not been agreed to by the Senate.


I certainly need your prayers as I serve the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at or 706-372-4114.