It is crunch time at the Statehouse. We are down to the final two weeks of the 2008 legislative session, the time when conference committees begin their work. This is the point when a bill has passed the House and Senate, but the chambers disagree about the exact language of the bill.
As many of you probably know, at the beginning of the session, legislation is introduced and then assigned to a committee that specializes in that particular topic, such as transportation, education or natural resources. This process is referred to as a bill's first reading. Representatives present their proposed bill to the appropriate committee for hearings, testimony, debate and a vote. Upon passage, the bill will move to the House floor where it will receive a second reading, which allows any legislators to submit amendments to the bill. Next, the legislation is submitted for a third reading, which is the final debate and vote. The bill is then sent to the Senate, where the process is repeated.
Upon approval by the Senate, the bill will be sent back over to the House for concurrence if there are no changes. If there are amendments, the House can vote to concur and the bill will move to the governor's desk for his approval. If the House votes to dissent, the bill will go to a conference committee.
A conference committee is composed of members of all four caucuses - House and Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats. Each caucus has one conferee and, generally, at least one advisor. They debate the bill, examine any alterations and come to an agreement before returning the bill to the House and Senate for final votes.
If both chambers vote to concur on the bill, it will move to the governor's desk for his signature so it can become law. If one or both chambers dissent, the bill dies.
House Bill 1001, Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax plan, is currently in conference committee. It still remains the focal point of session for all caucuses.
Conference committee is the final step in amending the language of the legislation so all the caucus will be working over time to ensure the best possible legislation is passed. The first conference committee meeting on the bill was Friday, Feb. 29. The last day to pass the bill is March 14.
As the bill progresses through the process, I will do my best to keep you up to date. As always, I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns on this bill or any other. I may be reached by phone at 1-800-382-9841, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.