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Hey, Texplainer: What's all the talk about deadlines at the Legislature this week? Aren't there three weeks left in the session?
The rules are designed to wind things down slowly instead of having a big all-in-one deadline on Memorial Day, the 140th and last day of the session.
From now until then, Legislative powers slowly ebb. Midnight tonight is the deadline for House committees to act on legislation filed by House members. Tuesday at midnight (most of the deadlines we're talking about here are at midnight) is the deadline for putting those bills that were passed by committees on the regular calendar — the agenda — for consideration by the full House. Uncontested and local bills have another day. Thursday is the last day the full House can tentatively approve House bills, and Friday's the deadline by which House bills must be approved and sent along to the Senate.
Senate bills have a little more time in the House; the same sequence for bills from the upper chamber starts on Saturday, May 21.
The Senate's rules are a bit more forgiving — or at least slower to kick in. Their deadline for finally considering bills is on Wednesday, May 25.
After that, all the two houses can do is consider legislation that's been through both chambers, either sending it off to conference committees to settle differences, agreeing with what happened in the other chamber, or killing bills by failing to act.
That's all backdrop to other dramas in both chambers. As the deadlines loom, the power of delay increases. Senators have the ability to filibuster legislation — to stand and talk for as long as they wish in order to kill legislation by running out the clock. The House doesn't have filibusters, but is perfectly capable of slowing things down with arguments over technicalities or with "chubbing" — which is what they call it when legislators keep the questions going for, sometimes, hours and hours.
The regular legislative session can't continue past May 30, and the next big deadline after that comes on Father's Day, June 19. That's the last day the governor can veto a bill passed during the regular session. Everything else goes into law with — or without — his signature. And if it doesn't have a different enactment date, each new law takes effect on Aug. 29.
One more thing: If the Legislature leaves something undone, the governor can call lawmakers back for a special session on the subjects of his choice. Each special session lasts up to 30 days and has its own set of deadlines.
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