HOW AN IDEA BECOMES LAW

 

  • An Idea Is Developed . . . A legislator draws from numerous sources in deciding what should be introduced in the Legislature as a bill. Major sources for ideas are constituents (CITIZENS), legislative Interim Committees which have studied the issue, government agencies, special interest groups, lobbyists, the Governor, or the legislators themselves. I often hear people commenting negatively on the huge number of bills introduced each year (700, 800, sometimes close to 900 bills), but the most of the bills are necessary or innocuous — appropriations bills; fixing language that was not quite technically correct; fixing language that was too broadly interpreted by the courts; sun-setting or extending previous legislated programs, setting up commissions or study committees, etc.

 

  • The Bill is Drafted . . . The idea is submitted to the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, a nonpartisan legislative staff office, in the form of a bill request. The assigned bill drafting attorney reviews existing law, researches the issues, and prepares the bill in proper technical form. The bill is given a number. A fiscal review is conducted and a “Fiscal Note” is attached. The bill is also reviewed for statutory or constitutional concerns.

 

  • The Bill is Introduced. The bill is introduced into the respective house of the Legislature and referred to its Rules Committee. If a Representative is the Sponsor, it originates in the House of Representatives and is a House Bill (labeled with HB- and a number). If a Senator is the sponsor, it originates in the Senate (labeled with SB- and a number)

 

  • The Bill Receives Standing Committee Review and Public Input. The Rules Committee assigns the bill to a standing committee which, in an open meeting, reviews the bill and receives public testimony. This is the most important part of the process because it is here that ordinary citizens can voice their opinion. The committee may make motions to do a variety of things to the bill. They can amend (change the language somewhat), substitute (replace the entire bill with something similar), hold (keep it in committee for review at a future time), table (set aside in a way that it requires a 2/3 vote to have it returned for review), or make a favorable recommendation (send it to back to the body — the House or the Senate — for floor debate and a vote).

 

  • The Bill Is Debated and Is Voted on by the Body. If the standing committee returns the bill with a favorable recommendation, the bill is debated in open session. During floor debate, the bill can be amended, substituted, circled (delayed for future consideration) or tabled (set aside). When a final vote occurs, the bill must receive a majority (38 votes in the House or 15 votes in the Senate) in order to pass.

 

  • The Bill Must Pass Through Both Houses of the Legislature. The procedure is repeated in the other body — House bills go to the Senate and Senate bills go to the House. After the bill has passed in both houses, it is signed by both presiding officers (the Senate President and the Speaker of the House).

 

  • The Bill goes to the Governor for Action. The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel prepares the bill in final form. This is called the “enrolled” bill which is sent to the Governor for Action. He can choose to sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it become law without his signature. The legislature CAN choose to convene a Veto Over-ride session (usually in May) and over-ride the governor’s veto, but it requires a 2/3 majority to do so.

 

  • The Bill Becomes Effective. An enacted bill is effective 60 days following adjournment of the Legislature (this year it will adjourn at midnight on Thursday, March 14th), unless a specific date is specified in the bill.