HELENA — The presiding officers of the state House and Senate said Tuesday their respective chambers are completing their work on general legislation expeditiously and expect to meet the Feb. 28 transmittal deadline without any problems.
However, committees, particularly in the House, will have to work hard to push out bills for debate in the upcoming days, and long floor sessions are expected early next week.
Feb. 28 is the 45th legislative day and halfway point of the 2013 legislative session.
It’s also the transmittal deadline for all general legislation in the House, excluding appropriations and tax bills, to be passed and sent to the Senate. The same applies with general bills in the Senate needing to be sent to the House.
Any non-money bills failing to be sent to the other house by Feb. 28 automatically die.
House Speaker Mark Blasdel, R-Somers, told representatives Tuesday he would like to have all general legislation introduced in the House by Friday.
He’s looking at hearings on Monday, an abbreviated hearing schedule on Feb. 26 and a full day of House floor debates on Feb. 27. On Feb. 28, the House and Senate will take final votes on all the bills that survived.
Legislators will leave a short recess after final votes on Feb. 28 before returning late in the day on March 4 to begin the second half of the session.
“I think things are coming along pretty smoothly,” Blasdel said.
As is always the case close to the transmittal deadline, Blasdel said some of the hearings will be have to be abbreviated because committees will have many bills to hear.
With its 100 members, the House has twice as many members as the 50-member Senate.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 554 bills had been introduced in the House to 365 bills in the Senate, counting general and revenue and appropriations bills. The total doesn’t include resolutions.
“Our bill introduction has slowed down to a trickle at least at this point,” Senate President Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said. “I feel pretty good right now.”
Beginning last week, Essmann said he pushed senators to introduce their bills if they want them to get a good hearing before transmittal.
He’s planning to have a regular hearing schedule through Friday and schedule debates on the Senate floor on Feb. 26 and 27.
Susan Byorth Fox, executive director of the Legislative Services Division, which drafts the bills, said, “It seems to be in pretty good shape.”
Statistics showed 433 bill draft requests for general legislation were on hold in the House, while 384 were on hold in the Senate.
Other upcoming deadlines are March 28 for appropriations bills, April 5 for both revenue bills and appropriations measures.