With “crossover day” coming Monday in the General Assembly — the deadline guaranteeing that a bill that has passed out of one chamber of the legislature will be taken up in the other — legislative leaders on Friday issued new rules for how bills will be heard in the final three weeks of the session.
The new guidance on public hearings is just the latest change that the General Assembly’s presiding officers have made to adapt to the COVID-19 public health emergency. All bill hearings have been virtual since the legislative session began in January, and legislative leaders have put a premium on keeping in-person committee voting sessions and all floor sessions relatively short.
Also this year, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee have met concurrently for all budget hearings.
Under the new guidance, House committees won’t hold hearings on Senate bills that are identical to House bills that have already passed out of the lower chamber. Senate bills that differ from the equivalent House bills and non-crossfiled legislation that have passed in the Senate will generally only allow the bill sponsor to testify at House committee hearings but may add witnesses at the discretion of the committee chair.
In the Senate, the four standing committees have set up their own rules.
- The Budget and Taxation Committee will not hear House bills that have a Senate cross-file that has already been heard by the committee. For House bills that are not cross-filed, the bill sponsor or their designee will be invited to testify at a hearing.
- The Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee does not hear House bills that have a Senate cross-file that has already been heard by the panel. For bills that
are not cross-filed, there will be limited testimony. All House bill sponsors may select up to three witnesses, and if there is opposition, staff will ensure those witnesses are selected to testify.
- The Finance Committee will not hear House bills that have a Senate cross-file that has already been heard by the committee. Subject to the discretion of Chairwoman Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County), if the House version of a bill is significantly different than the version passed by the Senate, the committee may hear from the House sponsor only. All other House bills will generally be sponsor only, and subject to the discretion of the chair, may include other limited testimony.
- The Judicial Proceedings Committee will not hear House bills that have a Senate cross-file if it has already been heard by the committee. For bills that are not cross-filed, the
hearing will be sponsor only unless there is opposition. If there is opposition, the committee will hold a limited bill hearing. All House bill sponsors may select up to three witnesses, and if there is opposition, staff will ensure those witnesses are selected to testify.
Click here to read the full guidance.