Hundreds of amendments under consideration

January 31st, 2006

Yesterday was a marathon of second reading amendments in the House. With over 170 amendments on the calendar, the House convened at 10am and, aside from a short lunch break, stayed in session until almost 11pm.

Bills and amendments eligible for consideration are distributed to Members in their mailboxes just off the floor of the House. Below is a picture of a stack of just some of the amendments and bills that were on the calendar for Monday.

amendments in box

The deadline for filing amendments is just two hours before session convenes. So many amendments were being distributed after session had begun. This is one of the problems with the compressed schedule of the “short” session. Digesting all of the provisions in the amendments is a time consuming task, and the individual caucuses usually must recess for up to several hours just to be able to go over all of the provisions before we vote on them.

pizzaAround 7pm, we were able to take a twenty minute dinner break to line up for pizza that was brought in and stacked along the back of the chamber.

The calendar for today is at least as long as yesterday’s, and the Speaker has said we will move on to bills eligible for third reading (final passage) if we finish all of the amendments. So another late night is likely.

One of the most important provisions under consideration will be HB 1008, the Governor’s “Major Moves” plan (which I have discussed earlier here and here). Almost 40 amendments have already been filed for that bill alone. One of those is a controversial amendment that seeks to establish a “Regional Development Authority” in northern Indiana that would exclude St. Joseph County:

“My hope was when I read it, there was a misprint. I really couldn’t believe one could be proposed without St. Joseph County being part of it,” said Mark Egan of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

You can watch or listen to the Legislature over the internet while we are in session here.

Entry Filed under: Statehouse, Transportation

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doug  |  January 31st, 2006 at

    It bears mentioning that in addition to the sheer volume you appear to be dealing with, reading amendments takes longer than reading ordinary proposals. The amendments usually take the form of “page 4, line 10, strike “x” and insert “y”.” Meaning you have to pull the original version of the bill, go to page 4, find line 10 and see what the change does.

    You’ll probably need to get or upgrade your eyewear prescription after session is over.

  • 2. M. Oddi  |  February 1st, 2006 at

    Hi - I like your blog a lot.

    However, I was actually quite surprised to see that huge pile of paper. I thought you guys had switched over to computers and pitched all that paper years ago!

    Also, with all the capability that is available today, there is no reason why you should have to do, any more, the exercise Doug outlines in the first comment.

    Legislators should not only have immediate online acces to the proposed committee reports and amendments, but to drafts showing what they would do in context — i.e. redlines.

    That is readily do-able and would make everyone’s life easier!

  • 3. Ryan Dvorak  |  February 1st, 2006 at

    Thanks for the comments. I wish I was updating more frequently now, but close to 14 hours a day on the House floor every day has a way of vaccuming up time.

    We actually do have an in-house software system (called Legisoft) which can be used to access the bills and amendments. However, the paper is a good backup for when the system crashes (like it did yesterday). Also, all the documents in Legisoft are .pdfs - and only compatible with Adobe 5.0 at that. That’s several years out of date, and can be quite slow at times.

    Sometimes it’s just quicker to read the paper copy than it is to pull it up in the software.

    Also, under tight deadlines on busy days, we sometimes receive the paper copy before it appears in the system. When you have a few hundred amendments to analyze in a couple hours, speed is of the essence.

    Finally, some Members just don’t use their computers.

    I agree it would be nice to have a more adaptable system that would produce redlines. That would be the Legislative Services Agency’s perogative - but I’ll ask them what the odds are of implementing it.

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