Status for Bills in Previous Sessions
NCSL’s databases operate on a standard 12-month calendar cycle with updates ceasing at the end of each calendar year and beginning again in January of the following year. If a bill from a previous calendar year session is enacted, vetoed or signed by the governor in the new calendar year, NCSL staff will update that information in the previous calendar year listing. NCSL does not retroactively update the status of legislation that fails due to adjournment or that carries over into the next session (in with a two-year biennium).
Therefore, in states that are in session at the end of a calendar year, some bills from previous sessions may still be listed as “pending” years after that session has ended. These bills frequently fail due to adjournment or sometimes carry over to the second year of a state’s biennium. To see if a bill has carried over to the second year of a biennium, you will need to check for the bill in the next year listed in the database for the updated status. If a bill is not tracked in the second calendar year of a state’s biennium, it likely failed.
What is carryover legislation and how does it impact NCSL’s databases?
In nearly half the states, legislation pending at the end of session dies, with most of these states starting each new calendar year with a clean slate of newly introduced legislation. Legislatures in Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas are biennial, so no regular session is held during the second year of a biennium.
The remaining states allow bills to carry over from the first year of a biennium to the second. Legislation in 25 states carries over from the odd-numbered year to the even-numbered year. In two states, New Jersey and Virginia, legislation carries over from the even-numbered year to the odd-numbered year in a biennium.
Carryover bills generally fall into one of three “status” categories:
- Bills remain exactly where they were when the first year ended (for example, in committee or on a floor calendar).
- Bills remain in, or revert to, the standing committee to which last referred.
- All bills are sent to the chamber’s rules committee.
Some states establish special procedures for carryover bills. For example, in California, bills introduced in the first year of the biennium must be passed by the house of origin by Jan. 31 of the second year. If the house of origin does not pass a bill by Jan. 31, it dies. NCSL staff generally don’t track carryover legislation in a state with rules like California until bills clear this threshold and begin to advance in the second year of the biennium.
In Maine and North Carolina, the second session of a biennium has a limited scope (i.e., only certain subjects or bills are allowed to be considered), so not all bills introduced in the first session are eligible for consideration in the second session. The legislature passes a joint order or a resolution listing the bills to carry over.
Carryover does not prohibit new identical bills containing the same text. A member may introduce identical legislation in both years of a biennium unless prohibited from doing so by other rules and procedures. However, carryover legislation that advances across multiple years may populate as a duplicate in NCSL’s database, being listed in the initial year of introduction and again in subsequent calendar years where the bill is active.
For example, if State House Bill 123 is introduced in 2022 and continues to advance in the legislature in 2023, it will populate in the database as pending in the 2022 records. It will then show any status updates and new bill text in the 2023 entry. The 2022 entry would not be updated as the bill was still pending at the end of the 2022 calendar year. If State House Bill 123 is eventually enacted, the 2022 entry will still be listed as pending with information reflecting status and text at the end of the 2022 calendar year, while the 2023 entry will be updated with information about the bill’s eventual enactment and final text.