On House bill assignments | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On House bill assignments

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 8:39 AM

Speaker Robbie Wills explains on his blog today the bill assignment process. He's explaining why he put Bill Sample's immigrant-punishing bill in Judiciary, where it should get a bumpy ride, rather than in State Agencies.

There may be a floor effort to move the bill, but it will be for show only.

I’ve been asked several questions these first few days about how I make my decisions on assigning bills to committee. When I ran for Speaker, I promised the members that if they felt so strongly about a bill that they were willing to put their name on it as lead sponsor, I’d guarantee them a fair hearing in front of the appropriate committee and, if the committee saw fit, an up or down vote. As Speaker, I can control two of those things: I assign the bills to the committees and I can work with our committee chairs to ensure the fairness of the process.

That said, there are many bills that have subject matter clearly in the jurisdiction of one committee over the others, .ie.: bills dealing with public school administration clearly belong in the Education Committee. Others deal with subject matter clearly outlined in the House Rules, i.e.: taxes on tobacco and bills dealing with gambling go to the Rules Committee as directed by the House rules. Others bills may be hybrids: they have several sections, each dealing with distinct subject matter, each seemingly appropriate for a different committee. Obviously, we can’t split up the bill and send it to several committees. So, my job is to weigh all the public policy considerations and make the call as to which of the several committees will hear the bill. Case in point, Rep. Sample’s bill dealing with illegal immigration. Several references are made in the bill title to “state agencies,” so one could initially conclude it would go to the State Agencies Committee. However, the bill creates a new felony offense, a very serious consequence of violating the law with very serious penalties for the violators. Bills dealing with creating criminal offenses or enhancing the penalties for existing offenses clearly belong in the Judiciary Committee, which is where I sent it.

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