Crossover Day Basics

Ok, if you’re reading this site, you probably are beyond the basics for crossover day, now “Day 28” of the 40 day legislative session. Still, some of you are new, and some of you have succumbed to the surface level reporting of what today is/does. Hint: No bill is really, truly dead until Sine Die…of 2020.

So let’s start at the beginning. Today is the day that, by handshake agreement but not by rule, a bill must pass one chamber or the other to be considered by the other chamber this legislative session. (Note: Reporter turned capitalist Aaron Gould Sheinin sends word that the Senate does have a rule, 3-1.2(c), declaring crossover day. The House remains YOLO on the day based on my understanding.)

What has evolved is a system that works mostly like this:

The House and its committees works mostly on House bills for the first 28 days, and the Senate does the same. Each body then turns most of its attention to the other chamber’s bills for the remaining 12 days. Mostly.

It’s widely reported that if a bill doesn’t pass one chamber today, the bill is considered dead for the session. I’ve written that many times myself. Our long time readers know better. This is where terms like “zombie bills” and “the motor pool” come into play.

Yes, after today, bills can rise from the dead. And they often do.

For a bill to rise from the dead (like a zombie), it needs a vehicle. Thus, members and lobbyists that see their dreams of legislation die tonight begin taking a long look at the “motor pool” after they use the weekend to sober up.

The motor pool is the list of bills that have passed one chamber (but not both) during the first 28 days. If the passed bill is germane to their cause, it can become a vehicle for the zombie to become a walker.

Image from The Walking Dead – filmed in Georgia

What this sets up is a situation where those trying to advance their legislation through the other chamber find themselves playing as much defense as they do offense. Sometimes zombie bill language is attached to a vehicle, changing (for better or worse) its chance of passage. Sometimes the vehicle’s original language is cannibalized entirely, gutting all the original bill’s language in favor of the zombie bill language. Cannibalism is rough that way.

Bills can continue to pass either chamber for the first time as well, so it’s best not to let your guard down on your most hated pieces of legislation. Another path to glory for those championing controversial bills is to have them voted on during the madness that is day 39 or 40, when so many bills are flying and most members of leadership are in conference committee meetings that anything goes. In this Lord of the Flies atmosphere, stuff happens.

This is significant because this is the first year of a two year legislature. Any bill that passes one chamber this year, before or after crossover day, remains alive for next session. This bill can be called for a vote in the other chamber any day next year, sometimes with little notice and before the opposition has time to focus again.

Thus, you’re going to read a lot of headlines tomorrow and over the weekend saying that “XXX bill has died for the session”. You can just smile and know better. Because no bill is ever really and truly dead so long as the legislature is still voting.

Sleep with one eye open, my friends.


Add a Comment