Cherry: Navigating through conference committees

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Thursday, April 13, 2017 12:01 pm

At the Statehouse, the 2017 session is quickly coming to a close. All of the proposed legislation still under consideration is nearing the end of the process. There is a long procedure for a bill to become a law to ensure that only fully vetted bills are enacted.

All legislation proposed by the House and Senate must go through a first, second and third reading in its chamber of origin. However, every bill must also be introduced in a committee hearing where legislators, experts and the public can testify on the proposal. Once a bill advances through all three readings in the House, it is sent to the Senate and vice versa. In the second chamber, it must go through the same process of first, second and third readings and committee hearings. Legislation that successfully makes it through the process in the second chamber without amendments immediately heads to the governor for consideration.

In the Indiana legislature, a bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate to become law. When a bill passes through the other chamber with amendments, the author of the bill must concur or dissent on the changes. When an author concurs, or agrees with the changes, the final version of the bill is voted on again, and if it passes, it is then sent to the governor. But if the author dissents, or disagrees with the changes, the bill is sent to a conference committee to iron out the differences. A conference committee consists of two members of the House and two members of the Senate. The leaders of both the House and the Senate appoint members to be part of the bipartisan conference committee process for each bill. Along with the conferees, they also appoint advisors to offer additional input.  Once all four conferees agree on a bill’s language, a conference committee report is then sent to both chambers to be voted on one last time.

Right now, there are a number of bills going through the conference committee process, like House Bill 1003. This legislation would create a new statewide exam system, called Indiana’s Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network, to replace the current ISTEP test. I-LEARN is a testing system that would more accurately determine a student’s proficiency and progress toward Indiana’s college-and career-ready standards. The test would also have a quicker grading turnaround and correct the software glitches that were present in ISTEP. Overall, it will better serve students, parents and educators.

House Bill 1008 is also currently being considered in conference committee. This legislation is aimed at both short-and long-term strategies to grow and maintain Indiana’s strong workforce. Under the House’s original proposal, it would create new Workforce Ready grants for Hoosiers that are pursuing high-value certificates in high-wage, high-demand fields. This legislation is a step toward growing our workforce to fill the anticipated 1 million jobs that will be created by 2022.

Both of these bills can still change drastically until all four conferees agree on the final version of the bill. There is always the possibility an agreement cannot be reached, preventing the legislation from advancing any further this year. All of the conference committees are streamed online, just like a regular committee. Visit to find a schedule of conference committees and watch the hearing either live or in the video archive.

The time leading up to the last day of session, Sine Die, will be hectic as these two bills and many more continue through the legislative process. This year, we anticipate adjourning Sine Die on April 21, but we must conclude all of our business before April 29. If you have any questions or concerns as we conclude the 2017 session, please contact me at 317-232-9651 or


Rep. Cherry represents House District 53, which

includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties.

He serves as Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

A high-resolution photo of Cherry can be downloaded by clicking here.