"I believe we've got about 50 bills in this committee, that means not all of them make it out," said Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington County).
Sears oversees the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislators are expected to work out of the statehouse through May, but if bills don't leave committee by March 15th, they are unlikely to pass before next year. "Usually what we do is have arrangements with the house on certain high-profile issues," Sears said.
Friday, House Leader Shap Smith and Senate President John Campbell met in order to determine if such an agreement is possible for proposed marijuana decriminalization. There are currently bills in both chambers, but Senators say the legislation faces a stickier path through the house, so they're allowing debate to begin there.
"We're working very hard in the house judiciary committee to complete as much of our work as possible before crossover," said House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg).
His committee is just as swamped as the Senate's. Rep. Lippert, said his group's first priority is dealing with several bills meant to tackle opiate and methamphetamine addiction. He hopes to streamline those measures with similar proposals in front of the human services committee. "Probably a dozen bills wrapped into one large bill -- We will take to the floor jointly from the two committees," he said.
Sen. Sears said his committee won't consider any gun legislation that doesn't originate in the House. A bill limiting magazine sizes and imposing background checks is currently sitting in Lippert's committee. But both concede other issues, like labeling for genetically modified foods, likely won't get serious attention until next year.
Legislators said the deadline is even tighter this year due to the late start at the capitol. However, they also said more exceptions to crossover can be made in the first year of each biennium.