Senate Dynamics: The Power of Committees, Pt 2

Previously, we reviewed data on each committee’s receptiveness to legislation coming before it, from the Committee on Local Government, which reports the vast majority of bills it hears, to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, which is the stingiest with legislation coming before it.

Member participation also varied among committees, with over 95% of the members of Courts voting on any given bill but fewer than 87% of those on Rehab doing so. Once again, Rules has been excluded from the analysis given the prevalence of voice votes, and C&L has been accorded a membership of ~15.65 to account for the expansion of the committee from 15 to 16 mid-session.

Table 1

It should come as no surprise that Courts is the most active committee; it is, after all, the only committee that meets twice a week, and its dockets are always full. Privileges & Elections, which often features the most partisan legislation, also has the lightest load. The following table shows the number of bills that came before each committee, including those that were ultimately rereferred.

Table 2

A few other interesting facts can be teased from the data:

  • Only five of the eleven committees left bills in committee without a vote (4 apiece in E&H and Finance and 1 apiece in C&L, Courts, and Rules), a tactic more commonly employed in the House
  • Bills were stricken about three times as frequently in Transportation (10.5% of bills) and Rehab (9.2%) than in the other nine committees (3.4%)
  • Perhaps the gentlest way of dispatching a bill, continuing it to a future session, was used 56% of the time in Finance and 50% of the time in Local Government, but only 20% of the time in General Laws and 23% of the time in Ed & Health
  • Courts was far and away the most likely to defeat a bill on a vote to report, with 23% of the bills it killed dying that way; by contrast, three committees—Transportation, Local Government, and Rules—never defeated a bill on a vote to report during the 2014 session

Here’s the summary data for your perusal:

Table 3

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Posts in the Senate Dynamics Series:

  1. Floor Consensus
  2. Member Vote Patterns, Part 1
  3. Member Vote Patterns, Part 2
  4. Run Your Own Senator Comparisons
  5. The Power of Committees, Part 1
  6. The Power of Committees, Part 2 (this post)
  7. Anatomy of Legislative Success (forthcoming)
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