Knowing how law is made is important. The steps below describes the basic process.
Introduction by a member of the General Assembly and committee referral. A bill may be introduced in the House or Senate. After an initial reading, it goes to a chamber’s Committee on Committees, which refers it to a standing committee.
Committee consideration. A committee can kill a bill by failing to act on it. Or it may issue a report on the bill that is favorable, favorable with amendments, favorable with committee substitute, unfavorable or without opinion.
First reading. Favorably reported bills have their first reading — by title only — on the floor of the chamber. Bills that have been reported unfavorably or without opinion are not likely to go further.
Second reading; to Rules. The bill is read by title a second time and sent to the Rules Committee. This powerful committee can vote to send it back to a standing committee — hindering its chances for passage — or place it on the agenda for a vote by the full chamber.
Third reading and passage. A legislator — usually the majority leader — makes a motion to have the bill “placed upon its passage.” Open debate follows. The bill can be amended on the floor — though each amendment must be found to be related, or “germane,” to the bill’s original subject. To pass, a regular bill must be approved by at least two-fifths of the General Assembly (40 House members and 17 Senators) and by a majority of the members present and voting. (Bills that call for spending or contain “emergency” clauses must be approved by 51 House members and 20 Senators.)
On to the other chamber. Bills defeated on the floor can be reconsidered, if two members who voted against it request its reconsideration and a majority approves. Bills approved on the floor go to the other chamber, where they follow much the same procedure as in the first chamber.
Concurrence or conference. Both chambers must agree, or concur on the final form of each bill. If either chamber refuses, the differences must be reconciled by a “conference committee” made up of members from both chambers. Such committees can make significant changes in the bills, but their compromises must be approved by both chambers.
Enrollment. After passage by both chambers, each bill is read carefully to make sure its wording is correct, and then is signed by the presiding officer of each chamber and sent to the governor.
To the governor. The governor may sign a bill, permit it to become law without his signature or veto it. The governor has 10 days to act on a bill after receiving it.
Back to the General Assembly. The bill can be passed over a governor’s veto by a majority of the members of both chambers.
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