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Senate pre-filing: What to know about the legislative process

It’s almost time: The prelude to the 2021 legislative session will begin with the pre-filing of bills this week. 

The pre-filing process — detailed in the Senate rules — is set to begin on Dec. 1 and can set the stage for each party’s legislative priorities for the year. 

“Truth be told, there isn’t much practical advantage to a low bill number. Bills aren’t debated in the order they’re filed,” Adrian Crouse, the secretary of the Senate, has explained. “But it never hurts to be first. Bills are referred to legislative committees in numerical order so pre-filed measures may stand a greater chance of being heard in committee.” 

Read on for a look at how the process works and what that’s meant in past legislative sessions. 

How pre-filing works

The structure for pre-filing is laid out in Senate Rule 44.

While members and members-elect can begin sending bills and joint resolutions to the secretary of the Senate for the upcoming legislative session on July 1 every year, numbers aren’t assigned until the beginning of December. 

For this year, that process will start on Tuesday, Dec. 1. 

Senate rules dictate bill and resolution numbers will be based on the seniority of the senator who filed the legislation, with a limit of three bills or joint resolutions per rotation of the seniority list. 

For 2021, that list is: 

1. Dan Hegeman 18. Lincoln Hough
2. Paul Wieland 19. Justin Brown
3. Jeanie Riddle 20. Tony Luetkemeyer
4. Dave Schatz 21. Cindy O’Laughlin
5. Bob Onder 22. Karla May
6. Jill Schupp 23. Brian Williams
7. Denny Hoskins 24. Holly Rehder
8. Andrew Koenig 25. Rick Brattin
9. Caleb Rowden 26. Elaine Gannon
10. Bill Eigel 27. Mike Moon
11. John Rizzo 28. Karla Eslinger
12. Sandy Crawford 29. Jason Bean
13. Mike Cierpiot 30. Doug Beck
14. Lauren Arthur 31. Greg Razer
15. Mike Bernskoetter 32. Steven Roberts
16. Eric Burlison 33. Barbara Washington
17. Bill White 34. Angela Walton Mosley

Once pre-filed, bills and resolutions can only be altered to fix typographical or drafting errors that do not impact the substance or intent. 

By the numbers 

In 2020, the Senate pre-filed 334 bills and 24 joint resolutions. The governor signed 12 Senate bills at the end of the year.

In comparison, the Senate introduced a total of 518 bills — and 233 of those were pre-filed — in 2019. Then, 34 pre-filed Senate bills were truly agreed and finally passed by the General Assembly; 32 got the governor’s signature.

In 2018, 303 of 558 bills considered were pre-filed. And in 2017, nearly 250 of the 544 bills introduced were filed before the official start of the session. 

The first day of the upcoming legislative session is set for Jan. 6, 2021.

This story has been updated. It was originally published in November 2019.