What is a standing committee?
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have standing committees that are organized around various public policy areas in order to facilitate the processing of legislation. When a bill is introduced in the legislature, it is typically sent to the standing committee which has jurisdiction. For example, a bill about clean energy would go to the Committee on Environment; a bill increasing the penalty for a criminal offense would go to a Judiciary Committee. These committees hold hearings on legislation and make recommendations to the House or Senate on whether a particular bill should pass. Typically, meetings of standing committees are held during morning hours on days when the legislature is in session. Committees may meet on a regular basis, often bi-weekly or weekly, or meetings may be called as the need arises.
What happens to a bill when it is referred to a standing committee?
Once a bill has been sent to a committee, the committee chair may set a date and time for a hearing on the proposal. When the time comes to consider a particular bill, the sponsor or sponsors will explain the proposal to the committee. Any member of the committee may ask the sponsor questions. Then the chairman will ask if anyone in the audience wants to comment on the proposal -- either for or against. Those persons also can be questioned by committee members. When everyone has spoken, the committee discusses the proposal, considers any amendments and decides if the bill should go forward or be stopped. Some bills are said to “die in committee,” meaning that the committee chair does not schedule the bill for hearing or the committee decides that the bill has no merit.
How can I keep track of a standing committee's schedule/agenda?
You can keep track of the schedule/agenda of a standing committee by following the daily calendar available in the lobby of the Legislative Building or the Legislative Office Building, or by checking the legislature's website (http://ncleg.state.nc.us). If you are interested in a particular bill, you should plan to be in the committee room when the hearing on the bill is scheduled. When you arrive at the meeting room, you may be asked to sign an attendance sheet indicating you were at the meeting. You can simply observe the proceedings or you can ask to present additional information to the committee or tell the members how you feel about the proposal. This is where the citizen can have direct input to the legislature on any proposed legislation.
Click here for the main General Assembly Committees Page.