10 Days Remain in the 2015 legislative session
Luckily ten legislative days are not ten calendar days or many advocates would be in panic mode right now. The last day of the session is currently scheduled for Thursday, April 2, 2015. Crossover day was a rather “mild one” by comparison to others, or so I am told. The House adjourned on March 13th just before 8 PM and the Senate just before 6 PM. I have to admit that I was expecting to see more frenzy and drama. There were likely several factors contributing to the quieter crossover day this year: (1) The headline-worthy bills such as Medical Marijuana, Opportunity Schools and Transportation Funding all passed the chamber they were introduced in before the 30th day of the session and (2) this is the first year of a two-year session so legislators know they still have time to move their legislation through.
The well, debate and red vote, green vote.
Despite the calm of crossover day, there were still some lessons to be learned for this newbie. I was able to witness a rather lengthy debate in the Senate regarding SB 185, clinical trials of cannabidiol-containing products for residents under 18 with medication-resistant epilepsies. Each Senator who was “yielded the well” (a fancy way of saying they had the podium and attention of the chamber) used their maximum time in the well. Mind you, we had to strain to hear this interesting banter on the monitor, over the 50+ student chorus (pictured here) that was performing on the 2nd floor. A particular young lady really belted out “Lean on me” and “Let it go.”
The Rules Committee can choose to set a limit on the amount of time a bill can be debated on the floor. This occurred with all of the Cityhood bills that went before the House during crossover week. I am sure this can be particularly helpful with controversial bills.
I also witnessed another odd occurrence that I had to ask the meaning of. During the discussion of a bill in the Senate the call for a vote was made by the President of the Senate and before the “machines were turned on” a Senator stood up and called for a “red vote” and was quickly followed by another standing up to ask for a “green vote.” As it turns out they were Senators in leadership positions who were asking the remainder of the Senate to vote Nay (red vote) or Yea (green vote). These are the colors that the votes show up in, respectively when the voting machine is turned on.
In case you were wondering
During a long day under the Gold Dome, the pages do not have to stay. They are released from their duties after lunch time; however they are given the opportunity to stay longer if they wish. If there are no pages then the Page staff must shuttle the messages into the legislators.
The floor can take a break for a meal by adjourning until a certain time. This can also occur in the House so that the Rules Committee can meet again to add more bills to the calendar (then called a supplemental calendar) for the day. This occurred multiple times during the course of Crossover day. It wasn’t easy to keep up with where they were on the list(s) so often you had to check in with the “diehards” at the House monitor to determine how many had already been heard and voted on. Lucky for us newbies, people are more than happy to share this information.