• Stephen Buckingham

It’s Crossover Day!

Early in my career advocating/lobbying for nonprofits in Annapolis, I heard a saying that has stuck with me: “There are millions of ways to kill a bill, only one way to pass it.” This refers to the fact that every bill must survive every stage of a defined process in order to become law. There are no shortcuts, and you have to pass every milestone – and do so before the 90-day session runs out.

At this point in the session (3 weeks to go), a lot of people have misconceptions about what has to happen with our priority bills. For example, when the same bill is introduced in both the House and Senate, it is not enough that each house pass its version of the bill. One bill has to be passed by both houses with exactly the same wording in order to be sent to the Governor for signature. However, both crossfiled bills do not need to pass; one will do (even though our legislators often pass both as a courtesy to give both the House and Senate sponsors credit for passage.

What happens if a bill misses a deadline?

March 22 is the official “crossover date,” the day by which any bill is supposed to cross over from its house of origin to the other house. Does this mean that any bill that misses the crossover is dead? No, but it makes it more difficult to pass. Any bill received by the other house after today will be referred to the chamber’s Rules Committee instead of its normal standing committee. The Rules Committee would then need to re-refer the bill to the standing committee before it could be considered. While not an insurmountable barrier, it at least causes a delay, and the end of the session is in sight. The receiving chamber’s standing committee would then need to hold a hearing and vote on the bill. For any bill that was cross-filed and the companion bill was already heard by the committee, the hearing will be more of a formality. But any non-cross-filed bill will be heard for the first time, creating further delay. Since the clock is such an important factor in the last three weeks, any delay is significant and can scuttle a bill.

Many of our priority bills have passed or are passing from one chamber to the other, so we are optimistic that many will pass before the General Assembly adjourns Sine Die at midnight on April 12. Let’s keep up the great work contacting lawmakers that many UUs have done so far.

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