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Conference committees are an integral part of the legislative process, though the particular role they play can sometimes be confusing.
(Published May 3, 2013)
Towards the end of the legislative session, separate House and Senate committee hearings are replaced by conference committee meetings. By this time, bills have made their way through various committees in the House and Senate and have been voted on by the entire body of legislators (often referred to as “on the floor”). The House and Senate may vote on different versions of a similar bill (i.e. Transportation bill) and refuse to accept the language from the other body. The differences between the bills are negotiated between the two bodies before they are sent to the governor. This is where conference committees come into play. Conference committees determine the final version of a bill before it is sent to the governor to sign into law, or veto.
After a conference committee has adopted an agreed-upon compromised bill (the “conference committee report”), the revised bill is sent back to each legislative body for consideration to adopt the conference committee report and to re-pass the bill. After the House and Senate approve the bill, it is sent to the governor for action. Bills must be passed by the Legislature by May 20, which is the statutory deadline for the legislature to adjourn.
Conference committees are composed of 3 or 5 members of each body. Bill authors and leadership determine who serves on the committee. As a general rule of thumb, a member appointed to the committee must have voted in favor of the bill when it was discussed “on the floor.”
For up-to-the-minute updates of conference committee happenings, follow IGR staff on Twitter and follow #lmcleg.
For more detailed information about conference committees, click here.
For side-by-side comparisons of the bills being negotiated in conference committee, click here.
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