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


In less than two weeks, the prelude to the 2020 legislative session will begin with the pre-filing of legislation. 

The pre-filing process — detailed in the Senate rules — is set to begin on Dec. 2 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 Monday, Dec. 2. 

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 2020, that list is: 

1. Kiki Curls 18. Denny Hoskins
2. David Sater 19. Andrew Koenig
3. Ed Emery 20. Caleb Rowden
4. Mike Cunningham 21. Bill Eigel
5. Wayne Wallingford 22. John Rizzo
6. Gary Romine 23. Sandy Crawford
7. Doug Libla 24. Mike Cierpiot
8. Gina Walsh 25. Lauren Arthur
9. Jamilah Nasheed 26. Mike Bernskoetter
10. Jason Holsman 27. Eric Burlison
11. Scott Sifton 28. Bill White
12. Dan Hegeman 29. Lincoln Hough
13. Paul Wieland 30. Justin Brown
14. Jeanie Riddle 31. Tony Luetkemeyer
15. Dave Schatz 32. Cindy O’Laughlin
16. Bob Onder 33. Karla May
17. Jill Schupp 34. Brian Williams

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 2019, the Senate introduced a total of 518 bills — and 233 of those were pre-filed. Forty-five bills were truly agreed and finally passed by the General Assembly; 41 were signed by the governor. 

In comparison, 34 pre-filed Senate bills were truly agreed and finally passed by the General Assembly; 32 pre-filed Senate bills 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. 8, 2020.