Majorities' rules: Inside this session's procedural wars and how the House minority is using them

03/17/2014 03:59 PM

While the General Assembly hasn’t flooded the governor’s desk with a ton of bills to sign into law so far, lawmakers have at least maximized the drama in many of the debates and have given Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure a workout.

House Republicans have pressed Democrats on a number of issues, seeking to force procedural votes on key issues that could be used in the election. That happened during the budget debate last week on procedural votes on amendments regarding the health care programs and gay marriage.

And on Friday, Republicans tried to pry free a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, called for a roll call vote to suspend the House rules to take up the bill, which hasn’t come up for a vote in the Health and Welfare Committee. Once again, Republicans forced House lawmakers to choose whether to go on the record on the issue:

Meanwhile, the majority caucuses in each chamber have been able to use the rules to ram through legislation over the objection of the minorities using the rulebook.

One of the most contentious examples came in the Senate when party line frustration bubbled to the surface over medical review panels. Senate Bill 119 would create those panels to screen lawsuits brought against nursing homes before they go to court.

And over in the House, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo used procedural wizardry of his own to avoid the House having to take a vote on a prevailing wage-related amendment as part of the debate over the bill to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Here’s a look at how knowing the procedures and the rules has been essential this session:

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