Section 4 | Committee Procedures
The way in which the standing committees operate is fundamental to the integrity of the policy process. Although each committee may have its own character and traditions, all committees are expected to follow the appropriate portions of the NCSL Permanent Rules of Procedure. The following summarizes the rules (and customs) regarding committee procedures.
A. Introduction and Distribution of Proposed Policy Directives and Resolutions
Amendments adopted at the 2011 and 2012 Legislative Summit made changes in the deadlines for introduction and distribution of proposed policy directives and resolutions and amendments to existing policy directives and resolutions.
Proposed new policy directives and resolutions must be submitted to the NCSL Executive Director or designee (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least 30 days before a Legislative Forum or annual meeting business meeting. The co-chairs of the Standing Committees refers resolutions to the appropriate committee or committees and may waive the 30 day deadline “under extraordinary circumstances.”
The 30 day deadline also applies to policy directives and resolutions that originate in the committees. They, too, get a formal referral from the co-chairs of the Standing Committees.
Proposed policy directives and resolutions must be distributed to committee members and others at least 20 days in advance of a Legislative Forum or annual meeting business meeting. This dissemination is accomplished by e-mail and posting to NCSL's Web page.
Amendments to existing policy directives and resolutions must be submitted to the NCSL Executive Director or designee email@example.com) at least 30 days before a Legislative Forum or annual meeting business meeting.
Proposed amendments to policy directives and resolutions must be distributed to committee members and others at least 20 days in advance of a Legislative Forum or annual meeting business meeting. This dissemination is accomplished by e-mail and posting to NCSL's Web page.
B. Referral of Policy Directives and Resolutions
The legislator co-chairs of the Standing Committees have the responsibility for referring policy directives and resolutions to committees. The Steering Committee has authority to make decisions regarding joint and re-referral of policy directives and resolutions.
C. Who Participates in Committee Meetings?
All NCSL meetings are open. In the interest of providing as many perspectives on issues as possible, most co-chairs encourage both members and non-members of committees to participate in committee discussions. Only legislators and legislative staff should sit at the table during committee meetings; representatives of the private sector and other guests should sit along the perimeter of the room.
Only legislator members of committees, registered for a Legislative Forum or Legislative Summit are entitled to vote. NCSL committee staff bring a roster of the committee to all committee meetings to settle questions of eligibility. The roster shows all legislators who have been appointed to the committee by the appropriate appointing authority in each legislative body.
The Rules also provide that a presiding officer may designate in writing a "legislator substitute." If, indeed, the designation has been made in writing and signed by the presiding officer, then the substitute is allowed to vote in the same way as a member appointed through the normal process. Designations of substitutes must be submitted no later than the beginning of a committee's first scheduled meeting.
In order to adopt policy directives and resolutions, committees must have legislator members (or substitutes) from at least 10 member jurisdictions (state or territorial legislatures). It is not sufficient, therefore, simply to have 10 members of the committee. They must represent 10 different jurisdictions.
The Rules require that the presiding legislator committee co-chair establish the presence of a quorum prior to a committee vote on matters of public policy. If the committee is taking a series of votes in a business meeting, most chairs simply begin the meeting with a roll call for establishing a quorum. However, if votes are scattered throughout a committee's agenda for a meeting, then it is prudent to establish a quorum prior to each vote.
Voting in committees is by voice, unless legislator members representing five states or territories request a roll call vote. The Chair also has the option of calling for a roll call vote.
Voting is by member jurisdiction, with each state having one undivided vote. If there is more than one member of the committee present from a state, a majority vote within the delegation prevails. If the state’s delegation is divided on the question, then the state must pass.
Legislative staff may not vote on matters of public policy.
F. Disposition of Policies
Committees must act in some way on each policy directive or resolution brought before them. The NCSL Rules of Procedure allow committees five options in disposing of policy resolutions. They may:
Approve the policy directive or resolution;
Approve it with amendment;
Postpone final consideration;
Table it; or
Defeat the policy directive or resolution.
"Table" in #4 is meant in the sense that Mason's Manual defines it: "to enable the body to lay aside the pending question in such a way that its consideration may be resumed at the will of the body." A tabling motion is "frequently used to suppress a question for the session, which it does, provided a majority vote can never be obtained to take it from the table."
Motions do not require seconds.
To be approved, a policy directive or resolution must obtain an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the member jurisdictions responding to the most recent quorum call. For example, in a committee vote with 16 member jurisdictions present and voting, at least 12 would have to vote in favor of a motion to approve a policy directive or resolution in order to pass it.
To approve an amendment requires a simple majority of member jurisdictions responding to the most recent quorum call.
A motion to table or postpone requires a simple majority of member jurisdictions responding to the most recent quorum call.
G. Meeting Summary
NCSL Rules require that committees produce a written summary of their meetings. Included in the summary should be a notation of the disposition of each policy directive or resolution brought before the committee--that is, did it pass or fail, was it amended, or was it deferred?
The Rules also require that the summary include a record of roll call votes by member jurisdiction.