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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

 1:31 PM 

Tweaks to proposed rules drop specifics on time limits, motion to refer

Assembly Republicans this afternoon announced tweaks to their proposed rule changes to govern the session, dropping a reference to specific minimum time limits for debates on bills.

GOP leaders last week began circulating the proposed rules, which included five changes. One called for allowing the Rules Committee to establish time limits on debate. The majority and majority would each be guaranteed at least 30 minutes for final passage and adoption unless leaders agreed to a different limit. Another provision called for creating a new rule that would limit debate to 10 minutes on any motion referring legislation to committee. 

The revised version released today dropped allowing the Rules Committee, which Republicans control, to establish time limits. Instead, the new proposal only calls for the majority and minority leader to meet and adopt "reasonable recommendations for time limits." The provision limiting debate on motions to refer was dropped.

Other changes include putting into rules a new procedure for ending debate if the time limits have expired. A member would be allowed to move that all pending amendments be tabled en masse. It would not be debatable and if approved, the body would have to move to the main question without further debate. The process was included in a memorandum of understanding Dem and GOP leaders reached for the 2013-14 session, but would be new to the chamber rules.

The new rules also give the speaker two more appointments to the Rules Committee and change the definition of a partisan caucus. Republicans said it would allow leadership from both parties to meet, including in private, for discussions. That has raised concerns that it would carve out a new exemption to the state's open meeting laws.

But Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters the Senate has operated that way for five years without complaints from the media and the Assembly should enjoy the same opportunity for frank discussion. He noted discussions over the rules were hampered by quorum rules that meant only three members of the Rules Committee could be in the room at any time to negotiate. He also said the change would allow leadership from both parties to get together for a retreat, which he said had been discussed.

"In any work place, you want to get together and you want to say how can the place work better and toss out ideas," Vos said. "Sometimes the ideas aren’t good. Sometimes they aren’t bad. But you will want to have an open discussion.

Vos said leggie leaders planned to continue meeting over the next week to reach a new memorandum of understanding that would address other details not covered in the rules. Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said that agreement would likely deal with specifics on time limits.

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