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Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Filing Before 2023 State Sessions

by Camille Tuutti, FiscalNote

2023 legislative sessions are approaching fast — here are the pre-filing ins and outs you need to know. 

Pre-filing for 2023

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As state legislatures settle into the second half of the year, many still have work to do in the remaining months of 2022. Virginia’s special session restarts in September and Idaho legislatures kick off a special session this month to address the impact of 40-year high inflation on families and schools, to name a few.

Plus, four states’ regular sessions don’t adjourn until late fall or Dec. 31, and more than a dozen states held and closed special sessions outside scheduled session dates. State lawmakers have certainly been busy this summer — considering they collectively control $2 trillion in annual spending and this is an election year for many states — but 2023 legislative sessions are approaching fast.

By late August 2022, 2023 legislative sessions had already technically begun in 7 states with pre-filing.

What You Should Know About the 2023 State Legislative Session Dates

  • In 2023, all 50 state legislatures will convene, including Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas, which only meet in odd-numbered years.

  • California’s 2023-2024 legislative session is the first to convene on Dec. 5.

  • In January, 45 state legislatures will convene, including 35 between Jan. 2-10 and 10 between Jan. 11-17.

  • Two states kick off 2023 legislative sessions on Feb. 6 — Nevada and Oklahoma.

  • Florida’s 2023 legislative session begins March 7.

  • As usual, Louisiana lawmakers meet last among the 50 states, convening on April 10.

  • Another five states — Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia — will reconvene in recessed, veto, or special sessions in September before convening in 2023.

  • Massachusetts will hold informal sessions until Jan. 2.

2023 Pre-filing Dates

As legislative staff and lawmakers at the state level gear up for upcoming legislative sessions, 14 states in late August were accepting pre-filed 2023 bills.

Already in 2023 Pre-filing Mode

The pre-filing period for 2023 legislative sessions in 7 states has already begun in:

  1. Colorado

  2. Florida

  3. Illinois

  4. Kentucky

  5. Mississippi

  6. Montana

  7. Virginia

November, December 2023 Pre-filing Periods

November and December are the busiest months for pre-filing 2023 bills, with another nine states accepting proposals in the last two months of 2022.

The New Hampshire pre-filing period for all incumbents running for re-election is Sept. 6-16. For House representatives, that period is Nov. 9-22.

November Pre-filing

Nov. 14 — Texas (the first Monday after the general election preceding the next regular legislative session)

Nov. 15 — Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, New York, Oklahoma, Utah

December Pre-filing

Dec. 1 — Missouri

Dec. 7 — North Dakota

Dec. 10 — Maryland

Dec. 12 — South Dakota (30 days prior to the convening of such regular session)

Dec. 15 — Pennsylvania (Senate)

January Pre-filing

Jan. 3 — New Mexico

Deadlines

Most of the states with processes for pre-filing bills allow submissions until sessions formally convene. Others impose caps and deadlines on when pre-session bills can be filed. Among them:

  • Alaska: Pre-filing closes Jan. 1.

  • Colorado: Pre-filing closes Nov. 29 for current members and Dec. 13 for newly elected members.

  • Florida: Pre-filing closes March 7.

  • Idaho: Pre-filing closes after the 20th day of any session except for committees.

  • North Dakota: Pre-filing closes Dec. 8.

No Pre-filing Permitted or Practiced

Nine states — California, Connecticut, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Vermont — and the District of Columbia don’t permit or practice pre-filing bills. In these states, all proposals are submitted when the legislature convenes.

Dates Not Yet Released

Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming have yet to release their pre-filing dates for 2023 sessions.

In 2022, Indiana opened pre-filing for the Senate on Oct. 18, 2021; Hawaii did so on Jan. 12 (exactly a week before sessions began); and Tennessee’s pre-filing date was Dec. 8, 2021. Washington allows members to pre-file bills for introduction in the month before session begins, so this will be sometime in December.

Pre-Filing State Nuances

Not all pre-filing guidelines are black and white. Just as states have a set of rules and regulations for proposing and adopting laws, many also have certain stipulations for understanding pre-filing procedures.

There are state-by-state nuances in pre-filing bills to be aware of when jumping into legislative paperwork. For example, read the fine print — certain states mandate bills must be exclusively sponsored and submitted by legislators, and others allow pre-filings by committees, individuals, groups, the governor, state agencies, and state supreme courts.

Some states also determine which types of bills can be pre-filed -— budgetary bills, bill amendments, bills that impact certain citizens, and so on. Certain states limit the number of bills a member may pre-file and others restrict the number newly elected lawmakers can file before the first year of a biennium session.

In Colorado, for instance, legislators are capped at five pre-filed bills. Of the five bills, excluding appropriations and interim bills, no more than two bills may be requested after Nov. 29. Newly elected members have a Dec. 13 deadline to request three of their five bills.

Minnesota wasn’t listed above, because prefiling is open during the period between the last day of the session in any odd-numbered year and the first day of the session in the following year. Considering the year is 2022, pre-filing may not be open. In other words, early submission of bills is allowed prior to the second year of its biennium. It’s entering its first.

In Virginia, in an even-numbered year, members are limited to the introduction of five bills after the period for pre-filing ends.

Before the first year of a biennium legislature, Wyoming senators can pre-file up to seven bills while during the second year, they can only pre-file three. Wyoming is among states where the second year of biennium sessions — the even year — is restricted only to budget bills.

Arkansas, Connecticut, and Maine are other state legislatures where even-year fiscal sessions limit legislation to budget bills only, and over a dozen states are subject to committee-review phases or must present pre-filed bills for a vote.

Why Monitor Pre-filed Bills?

Pre-filed bills are formal proposals that provide legislative staff time to document, package, and format measures in greater detail and clarity. When a bill is pre-filed, it is numbered — which means it can be found, researched, and tracked — and, in most states, referred to a committee.

Pre-filing streamlines the law-making process and allows legislative staff to assemble the proper paperwork and formatting necessary to usher a bill into committees and, eventually, onto chamber floors.

Most states require pre-filed bills to be formally introduced (“first reading”) and assigned to committees, where they may or may not be heard. It is at the committee level during informal pre-session gatherings where pending issues can be discussed in greater detail than what may be possible during frantically paced legislative sessions.

Getting pre-filed bills into committees is where efforts by advocates, trade groups, associations, nonprofits, corporations, and law firms have the most impact. It is critical to do so because the pre-filing period before a session convenes provides an opportunity to investigate and comment on proposals, and to contact elected officials to convey support or opposition to specific measures.

While monitoring pre-filed bills presents an opportunity to plan ahead, the pre-filing period also provides an effective tool for advocates to employ in getting their draft legislation seen before sessions begin.

Minority party lawmakers and issue advocates who know their bills are unlikely to be addressed by legislators in the party that controls their chambers — if they are introduced at all — often use the pre-filing period to draw attention to their priorities. While pre-filed bills might have no chance of being adopted or even introduced in committee, they can garner media attention for a cause or a candidate.

Another benefit to keeping tabs on pre-filed bills through a state legislative tracking tool is staying on top of “carry-over” bills, proposals that were introduced in the last legislative session but didn’t come to a vote. In some states, carry-over bills are automatically re-introduced at the beginning of the next session.

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