Legislative Update: Informal Session and the Judiciary Committee

Wednesday, November 20th, marked the end of formal sessions for the first half of the two-year 2013-2014 legislative session.  The Legislature will meet in informal session through December, meaning it will only consider non-controversial matters.  Formal legislative sessions will begin again in January.  Legislative rules provide that any matter pending before the House and Senate carries over into the second annual session.   That means any bill currently pending will continue to be an active bill through 2014. 

When bills are filed at the beginning of the session they are docketed by the respective Clerks’ offices and assigned to a committee according to subject matter.  Committee staff reviews the bills and develops a public hearing schedule.  In the case of the Judiciary Committee, this requires agreeing to hearing topics and categorizing bills in a meaningful and efficient manner. 

The Judiciary Committee is arguably the busiest non-budgetary committee as far as the number of legislative proposals that get assigned to it – 805 since January 2013.  Hearings are known to last well past midnight on some occasions.  Over the last eight months, the Judiciary Committee held seven public hearings covering the following categories of bills:

 

  1.  Constitutional issues
  2. Sex offender bills and bills that would change any statute of limitation
  3. Real estate and property issues
  4. Criminal bills, privacy and restraining orders  
  5. Motor vehicles and laws relative to operating under the influence
  6. Torts
  7. Court Administration

We won’t hear about any upcoming Judiciary hearings for some time.  In addition to the start of informal session, the current Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee is simultaneously running for Congress.  With less than three weeks to go before that special election, time will tell when the Judiciary Committee hearings will resume after the new year. 

Right now, it’s unclear what will become of these bills, but we’re watching as always.  Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

- Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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