Shell Bill

A shell bill is a bill that is introduced at the beginning of the legislative session with little or no substantive language. Shell bills are intended to serve as placeholders for legislative proposals to be filled in later. Shell bills will typically include nothing more than a title that describes the section of law being changed or some meaningless wording changes.

Historically, a large number of shell bills have been introduced in each chamber. In some sessions, a majority of introduced House bills are shell bills, with the Speaker alone introducing several hundred. Committee chairs frequently file multiple shell bills related to their committee’s area of jurisdiction. Shell bills are generally assigned to the House Rules Committee and cannot be heard in committee until substantive language is added as a “committee substitute.” The Senate adopted a rule prohibiting the introduction of shell bills as of 2015.

Most appropriations bills, which are introduced later in session and assigned to the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget (JCAB), are initially shell bills.

An example of a typical shell bill from the 2023 session was HB 2300 authored by Rep. John Pfeiffer, that read in whole:

SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law not to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:
This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Criminal Law
Act of 2023″.
SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2023

HB 2300 was assigned to and died in the Rules committee.