How a Bill Becomes a Law
Between the conclusion of the organizational session and the
regular session (usually from December 10 through December 24), a
legislator may prefile a bill with the Legislative Council. The
Legislative Council staff numbers the bill and has the bill
printed so that copies are available when the Legislative
Assembly convenes in regular session. These prefiled
bills are technically introduced on the first day of the regular
session, even though they have received numbers, have
been printed, and have been referred to the appropriate standing
committees by the Lieutenant Governor (for Senate measures) or
the Speaker of the House (for House measures).
During a legislative session, a legislator can deliver a bill to
the bill clerk of the appropriate house any time during the day.
If the bill has not been prepared by the Legislative Council
staff, the bill is delivered to the Legislative Council staff for
a review to determine if the bill complies with the form and
style requirements for bills. The Legislative Council staff
prepares the bill in accordance with the requirements, then
returns the form and style bill to the bill clerk. Every
bill received by the bill clerk before the deadline set for that
day is numbered by the clerk and is introduced during the
Ninth Order of Business (the order for introducing bills of that
house). Upon introduction, the bill's title is read by the
Secretary of the Senate or Chief Clerk of the House. This is
known as the First Reading.
Once a bill receives its first reading, this procedure is
The committee chairman schedules a public hearing on the
bill. By custom every bill referred to
committee is scheduled for public hearing.
After public hearing the committee must report the bill back
to the floor for a vote. The legislative rules require every
bill referred to committee to be reported back to the floor for a
vote. A committee report is received during the Fifth Order of Business. A committee must make one or more of the following
recommendations with respect to a bill: do pass, do not pass, be
amended, be referred to another committee, or be placed on the
calendar without recommendation.
Every bill reported from committee is placed on the calendar
for consideration during the Eleventh Order of Business (the order for Second
Reading, when measures are voted on for final passage) the next day. If the
recommendation is for amendment, the amendment is voted on first under the Sixth
Order of Business (when amendments are considered),
rather than final passage, and then the amended bill is voted on
the day following the day of the vote on the amendment. For
example, a bill is reported back on Wednesday (during the Fifth Order), the amendment is
voted on Thursday (during the Sixth Order), and the vote on final passage is on
Friday (during the Eleventh Order).
If the bill passes, it is messaged (delivered) to the other
house, where a similar procedure is followed.
If the bill is amended in the other house, it is returned to
the house of origin for concurrence. If the house of origin does
not concur, the presiding officer of each house appoints three
members to a six-member conference committee to resolve
differences. The house of origin votes on the conference
committee report first, then the other house votes on the
conference committee report.
Once a bill has passed both houses in exactly the same form,
it is enrolled (retyped with all amendments in place) by the
Legislative Council staff, signed by the presiding officer of
each house, and delivered to the Governor for approval.
The Governor may sign a bill and forward it to the Secretary
of State, forward a bill to the Secretary of State without
signature, or veto a bill or items in a bill. While the Legislative Assembly is
in session, a bill becomes law if the Governor neither signs nor vetoes it
within three legislative days after its delivery to the Governor. If the
Legislative Assembly is not in session, a bill becomes law if the Governor
neither signs nor vetoes it within 15 days, Saturdays and Sundays excepted,
after its delivery to the Governor. If the Governor
vetoes a bill while the Legislative Assembly is in session, the
Governor must return the bill to the house of origin for a vote
on whether to sustain (agree with) the veto. If the
house of origin passes the bill by a two-thirds vote of the
members-elect, the bill is sent to the other house and if that
house passes the bill by a two-thirds vote of the members-elect,
the veto is overridden and the bill is delivered to
the Secretary of State.
A law usually takes effect on August 1 after its filing with
the Secretary of State. An appropriation measure for the support
and maintenance of state departments and institutions or a tax
measure that changes tax rates takes effect on July 1 after its
filing with the Secretary of State. Later effective dates can be
specified in a bill, and a law that is declared an emergency
measure and which passes each house by a vote of two-thirds of
the members-elect of each house can take effect upon its filing
with the Secretary of State.
he presiding officer refers the bill to a standing committee
with the appropriate subject matter jurisdiction over the bill,
e.g., a bill relating to game and fish licenses would be referred
to the Natural Resources Committee.
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Copyright © 2013, Lawrence R. Klemin
January 7, 2013