[r85] Pond Report: Conference Committees Bring Exciting End to Legislative Session (4/29/2011)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Start Date: 4/29/2011 All Day
End Date: 4/29/2011
The most chaotic time at the Statehouse just ended.

Members of Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate raced against the clock late Friday night to pass good legislation before ending the state's annual legislative session.

One of the biggest reasons the final week of the legislative session becomes so time consuming is because the Indiana House and Indiana Senate sometimes will pass different versions of a bill.

In order for a bill to become a law it must pass through the two separately elected state legislative bodies, the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate. However, throughout a session a bill will pass through one legislative body and will be amended and then passed in the other legislative body, and be amended yet again.

As a result, there are different versions of the same bill. This requires the Indiana House or Indiana Senate to accept the most recent version of the bill or reach some type of compromise.

Conference committees are the way the Indiana Senate and Indiana House come up with compromises to different versions of a bill.

A conference committee is a four-person bipartisan committee comprised of one member of each caucus - the Indiana House Republicans, Indiana House Democrats, Indiana Senate Republicans and Indiana Senate Democrats. The leadership of each caucus appoints their committee member, and each four-person committee works together to find a compromise on their assigned bill with multiple versions. If a compromise can't be reached the bill will die.

A conference committee differs a little bit from regular committee at the Statehouse that meets throughout the entire session. While most Indiana House and Senate committees will conduct public hearing on a bill, a conference committee is more concerned about finding common ground between the two versions of the bill.

It is truly a bipartisan effort. Each caucus is equally represented and other state legislators are allowed to serve as non-voting advisers to members of the conference committee.

More than 25 conference committees are met the last week of the session this week to finalize these bills with multiple versions.

Once a conference committee reaches a compromise each member must sign off on the agreement that amends the bill.

If both the Indiana House and Senate pass the bill it will go to the governor for final approval. The governor has the option to sign the bill into law, veto the bill or let it become a law by not signing it.

The General Assembly can override a governor veto in Indiana with a simple majority in both the Indiana Senate and Indiana House.

This process of conference committees can create some extremely powerful legislation to help Hoosiers, but it is one of the most hectic times at the Statehouse during the legislative session. It is long hours we are happy to work to ensure the state government can help more Hoosiers.

This year's session has been very productive and we accomplished a lot of great things. I'm pleased that we passed a balanced budget that does not raise taxes, and restores some education funding that had been cut in the past. We also passed many positive education reforms that all parts of the state will benefit from.

Overall, I'm pleased with what we did achieve and believe Hoosiers will begin to see the positive results of our work sooner rather than later.

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State Rep. Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) represents portions of Allen and DeKalb counties.