What Is a Standing Committee in Local Government?

Within local government, a standing committee is a permanent legislative committee. It is named for its continual existence, in contrast to ad hoc or special committees formed to address specific issues.

The standing committees of local governments consider bills and issues and report their findings to the full chamber. The chair of each committee is a member of the board or council. The rules of most legislatures require that standing committees consider and report on proposed legislation referred to them by the full chamber.

Standing committees are an important part of local government, which helps to ensure  the business of the community is conducted in an orderly and efficient manner. Topics usually discussed in standing committees include public safety, ordinances, zoning, and intergovernmental relations. As such, committees must have a streamlined and efficient way of conducting business so they can quickly and effectively respond to the needs of their community.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the house rules, the roles and responsibilities of committee members, how to join a standing committee, and how committee members can improve meeting effectiveness with eScribe.

Standing Committee Responsibilities

The first step in understanding the role of a standing committee is to know what responsibilities they have. The most important responsibility of a standing committee is to review legislation that is referred to them by the full chamber and make recommendations.

In addition to this, standing committees are responsible for:

  • Discussing and debating bills and amendments.
  • Holding hearings to gather testimony from experts and members of the public.
  • Reporting their findings and recommendations to the full chamber.
  • Making decisions on which bills to bring to a vote.

Committee Members

Standing committees are typically composed of a small group of legislators, with the majority being from the majority party. The minority party is usually represented on each committee, but in smaller numbers. In addition to legislators, some committees may also include members of the public or experts on the subject matter under consideration.

The roles and responsibilities of committee members vary depending on the type of committee. However, all members are responsible for:

  • Attending meetings and hearings.
  • Reviewing legislation and other materials related to the committee’s work.
  • Reporting the work of the committee to their constituents.
  • Advocating for or against the legislation before them.

To achieve their objectives, committee members must observe the House rules of their chamber, which govern the conduct of business.

What is the Role of the Committee Chair?

The chair of the committee has significant power to determine how the committee operates. This includes setting the agenda, presiding over meetings, and ruling on procedural matters. The chair also has the authority to vote on behalf of the committee when there is a tie.

The committee chair can play a significant role in shaping the outcome of legislation. For example, the chair can choose to not bring a bill up for a vote, effectively killing the legislation.

The vice-chair of the committee is the second-ranking member and typically presides over meetings in the absence of the chair. The vice-chair also has the authority to vote on behalf of the committee when there is a tie.

The House Rules

The rules of each chamber are designed to ensure the efficient and orderly consideration of legislation. The rules governing committees are particularly important, as they determine how bills are referred to committees, how hearings are conducted, and how amendments are considered.

There are a few key things to remember about the House rules:

  • Bills must be referred to committees before they can be considered by the full chamber.
  • Committees can only consider bills that have been referred to them.
  • Members of a committee can offer amendments to bills during hearings or when the bill is being considered by the full chamber.
  • Committees must vote on bills before they can be considered by the full chamber.
  • A majority committee vote is required to pass a bill out of committee.
  • Committees can choose to report a bill favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation.
  • The chair of the committee has significant power to determine how the committee operates.

How to Join a Standing Committee

If you’re interested in joining a standing committee, the first step is to contact your state or local legislator. Each chamber has a process for appointing members to committees, and most require that members express their interest in serving on a particular committee.

Once you’ve been appointed to a committee, you’ll be expected to participate in all aspects of the committee’s work, including attending meetings and hearings, reviewing legislation, and advocating for or against bills.

How are Members Chosen for a Standing Committee?

The process for appointing members to committees varies from chamber to chamber. In some cases, the leaders of each party will appoint members to committees. In other cases, members may be elected by their peers or chosen through a lottery system.

How Many Members Does a Standing Committee Have?

The number of members on a standing committee varies depending on the size of the community. For example, a small town may only have a few members on its committees, while a large city may have several dozen.

Who Holds the Most Seats on a Standing Committee?

In local government, the rules governing committee composition vary depending on the jurisdiction. In some cases, the majority party may have a majority of seats on the committee. In other cases, the rules may be more evenly split between the parties.

What are Subcommittees?

Subcommittees are smaller groups within a standing committee that are typically responsible for focusing on a specific issue or bill. Subcommittees may be created by the full committee or by the chairs of the committee.

What is the Difference Between a Subcommittee and a Working Group?

A working group is an informal group of members who are tasked with studying a specific issue. Working groups do not have the same authority as subcommittees and cannot take official action on behalf of the committee.

Improve Committee Effectiveness with eScribe

As a committee member, you can play an important role in the legislative process by providing your expert knowledge and insight on the bills before the committee. You can also use eScribe to help you prepare for meetings, track bills, and communicate with other members.

eScribe is a web-based application that gives you instant access to the latest information on bills, amendments, and committee meetings. With eScribe, you can:

  • Review the text of bills and amendments.
  • Track the progress of bills through the legislative process.
  • View upcoming committee meetings and hearings.
  • Receive notifications when bills or amendments are scheduled for a vote.
  • Communicate with other members of your committee.

eScribe is an essential tool for committee members who want to be effective and engaged in the legislative process. As a new norm is evolving concurrently with technology, we can expect to see more tools and applications that will help standing committee members do their jobs more effectively. For now, eScribe is leading the way in making the legislative process more efficient and transparent.

Download our Guide to the New Norm for Successful Civic Meetings for more information on how to adapt to the new meeting landscape.