Those who roam Capitol hallways in Salem recognize the signs that signal the end of a legislative session. Here are some of them:
- ONE HOUR NOTICE RULE: Legislative hearings typically are scheduled with at least 48-hour notice. As the session nears adjournment, required notice drops to an hour. In the past, lobbyists constantly checked bulletin boards for hearing notices. Now they receive e-mail notices, which provides a more reliable means of tracking what is scheduled.
- COMMITTEES SHUTTING DOWN: Another sure sign the end is near is closure of committees, other than an informational hearings on interim work plans. All policy committees have stopped meeting. The only committees still active are Revenue, Rules and Ways and Means. Fewer committees mean fewer bills heading to the floor, making the final push to adjournment easier.
- PUBLISHING THE SINE DIE RESOLUTION: Senate Concurrent Resolution 18 appeared in the bill stack last week. It reads, "Adjourns sine die 2011 regular session of Seventy-sixth Legislative Assembly."
- TEMPERS GETTING SHORT: If a legislator or a lobbyist wants to pass pet bills, time is growing short. Tempers often follow. There are still ways to engage in the practice of gutting one bill and stuffing it with your pet bill language. That usually requires agreement by legislative leaders, but they are hesitant to engage in that kind of maneuvering toward the end.
- MAJOR STATE AGENCY BUDGET BILLS MOVING: Big agency budgets came cascading out of Ways and Means last week, including Human Services, Health, Transportation, Business Development and Juvenile Corrections. The only major budget left undecided is the Corrections budget.
- END-OF-SESSION PARTIES: Parties for lobbyists, staff and legislators used to be almost a daily occurrence near the end of session. Changes to the ethics rules in 2007 left people wondering if the practice would end, but a healthy number of parties are scheduled for the next two weeks in Salem.
- ONE LOBBYIST'S FOOD VAN: Long-time lobbyist, Mark Nelson, often makes arrangements to park a van near the Capitol and has staff organize barbecues every noon for anyone who wants to show up. The van appeared the same day the Sine Die bill did.
When you think of adjournment, remember that many of those in Salem don't always want to go home. In some cases, legislators believe they worked to win election or re-election and want to stay around to do the public's business. In other cases, they may like the attention that goes with holding public office. Some lobbyists may get paid more for working during a session, so they want to stay around. Salem-area businesses profit when the Capitol is busy.
However, after five or six months in Salem, most seasoned legislators and lobbyists know it's time to go home. Results don't necessarily improve with time.
There always is another legislative session. Thanks to voters last November, we now have annual legislative sessions, so that nobody will have to wait long before returning.
Footnote: The writer, CFM partner Dave Fiskum, has lobbied for many years in Salem. In that sense, he represents a number of clients who will be happy to adjournment sine die.
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