The Rules Committee determines which bills advance to the floor calendar for consideration by the full Senate. (The Rules Committee also has other duties, but determining which bills advance to the floor calendar is the most prominent. For example, see Senate Rules 13 and 43.) Every year people inquire about how bills are “pulled” in Rules Committee. This memorandum is intended to give you a shorthand guide to the procedures and the terminology involved.
There are two calendars in Senate rules. The
White Sheet is where bills are sent immediately after being passed out of a standing committee. This is, more or less, a review calendar.
Green Sheet is a consideration calendar made up of bills requested (or “pulled”) by Rules members from the White Sheet and is the list of bills eligible to go directly to the floor.
When the Rules Committee considers bills on the White Sheet, they may be moved (“pulled”) to the Green Sheet without debate or a vote. They are then eligible to pull to the floor at the next Rules meeting.
Bills on the Green Sheet are debated and voted on prior to moving to the floor. Most bills advance on a voice vote, but divisions are often called where a show of hands decides the bill’s fate. Any member may request an oral roll call on any bill before it goes to the floor.
The vast majority of bills are placed on the Senate floor calendar in the preceding manner. However, “packages” of bills may be voted out at one time. There might be a package pull before a cutoff or the end of session, or when the Senate is going to address one topic with several bills. Whether the bills move by individual pulls or by package, the list of bills added to the floor calendar is called the
Occasionally, the Committee will create a “consent” calendar of bills with little or no opposition. These bills can come from either the white or green sheets and are placed on a separate pink calendar for the floor.
After certain cut-off dates, the Senate Rules Committee sometimes places bills in the
X-File, if they are no longer eligible for consideration. This removes them from calendars and the status sheet.
Currently, there are 17 members on the Senate Rules Committee: the Lt. Governor, 10 majority members and 6 minority members. The majority leader determines how many positions will be appointed by each caucus. Leadership of each caucus decide which members will serve on Rules, but traditionally, the Majority/Minority leader, Caucus Chair, Floor Leader, President Pro Tempore and Vice President Pro Tempore are members of the Rules Committee. The Lt. Governor is the chair and a voting member of the committee (Senate Rule 50) and the Vice Chair is the President Pro Tempore.
Staff to the Rules Committee include the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Senate. Both Senate Counsel generally attend.
Two Step Process in Rules Committee to move a bill to the Floor Calendar
Moving a bill to the Green Sheet:
At the beginning of a meeting, the Majority Leader will announce how many ‘pulls’ each member will get. Beginning with the Majority Leader, each member, in order of seating, chooses a bill to move from the White Sheet to the Green Sheet. No vote is taken. Factors for the number of ‘pulls’ include: number of bills currently on the White Sheet, the number of bills already on the Green Sheet; and the number of bills still on the current calendar. Generally, a bill only moves one step during a Rules meeting.
Moving a bill from the Green Sheet to the Calendar:
At the beginning of the meeting, it will be announced how many “pulls” each member will have from Green to the Calendar. Each member makes a motion to place a particular bill on the calendar, gives a short statement regarding the purpose of the bill, gives a short statement in support of the bill and then a vote (usually voice vote aye/nay) is taken. A recorded rollcall can be requested by any member of the committee.
If a member moves a bill and it fails, the bill goes back to the White Sheet. The member does not get another choice, it counts as one of their “pulls”.
The bills are placed on the calendar in the order in which they are pulled out of the Rules Committee.