State Legislators Ask: Will You Promise Not To Hijack This Bill?

Committees in the state legislature have a recurring fear this year: that a bill they sign off on will later shape-shift into something radically different they never would've approved. (Image via Will Carlisle, special to WPLN)

Committees in the state legislature have a recurring fear this year: that a bill they sign off on will later shape-shift into something radically different they never would’ve approved. (Image via Will Carlisle, special to WPLN)

There’s a seeming paranoia in the state legislature this spring: Committee chairmen want reassurances—guarantees, even—before they sign off on proposals.

They’re scared bills they let out will change a week later, to do radically different things.  So, Committee Chairmen like Mark White keep asking members to promise they won’t let approved bills shape-shift into something unauthorized.

An example came during a recent meeting of the House Education Subcommittee, when White spoke to Rep. Raumesh Akbari:

WHITE: “If your bill, when it moves out of this committee, is amended in any way, other than the intention of your bill, will you bring it back to this subcommittee?”
AKBARI: “I definitely will.”
WHITE: “OK, thank you very… You forget to say cross your heart and hope to die.”
AKBARI: “Cross my heart, hope to die, so help me God.” (laughing)

Surprise amendments have unfurled on the House floor, angering members who say such maneuvering circumvents the usual process, on subjects from school standards to meth.

It’s within the rules though, argues Rep. Rick Womick.  He doesn’t think it goes against the spirit of the system:

“These rules are all in place.  And that’s one of the many rules that we have that can take advantage of—to bring it straight to the floor.”

Opponents of the tactic include the speakers of both chambers.  Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says in a caucus meeting last week he told members if they say their bill does something, by golly, it better do it.

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