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State Legislation: Explanation of Passage of a Bill

Passage of a Bill

When a bill is first introduced in either the Senate or the House, termed the '1st reading', it is assigned to a committee by the President of the Senate or the House. In the House, for instance, a bill can be assigned to one of the following committees: Agriculture; Livestock and Natural Resources; Appropriations; Business Affairs and Labor; Education; Finance; Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions (HEWI); Information and Technology; Judiciary; Local Government; State; Veterans and Military Affairs; Transportation and Energy; and House Services. The bill is generally assigned to a committee based on its content (for instance, a bill on child welfare would be assigned to HEWI); however, there are several exceptions. A bill's sponsor may request that the bill be assigned to a committee that the sponsor sits on, regardless of whether that committee generally hears that type of bill. In cases where the president is opposed to a bill, s/he may assign it to a committee that is likely to quash it. The chair and co-chair of each committee are appointed by the majority party in each house.

Let's assume that the beginning house for our example bill is the House, and that the President of the House assigns it to HEWI. The bill will only pass out of HEWI on a majority vote--a tie vote will kill the bill, or any amendments to the bill, in the committee. If it passes through HEWI, and does not have a fiscal note (cost) associated with it, it goes to the full House floor for a 2nd and 3rd reading. The bill can be amended on the 2nd reading by anyone on the floor of the House —a majority vote is necessary for passage of the bill at 2nd reading. The bill always goes through a 3rd reading before passing out of the House to the Senate.

If our bill does have a fiscal note (cost), it goes first from HEWI to the House Appropriations Committee. If the Appropriations Committee passes the bill by majority vote, it then goes to the full House floor for a 2nd and 3rd reading, as described above. A bill can be killed in Appropriations by either receiving less than a majority vote, or because the date on the bill has expired (a bill is always assigned a date by the bill's drafter and sponsor).

If our bill passes through 2nd and 3rd reading, it goes to the Senate, where it is assigned first to Senate HEWI committee, then to Appropriations if it has an associated fiscal note, and to the Senate floor for 2nd and 3rd readings, assuming passage through the two committees and 2nd and 3rd readings by majority vote. If the bill is not amended by the Senate, it goes to the Governor for signature. If it is amended anywhere in its journey through the Senate, it goes back to the House for the House's concurrence on the Senate amendments. If the House does not concur (by majority vote of the entire House), the bill is assigned to a conference committee consisting of six legislators from both parties and both houses, to resolve differences. If the amended bill passes out of committee on majority vote, it again goes to the floor of both houses. If the bill is passed in both houses by majority vote, it goes to the Governor's office, where it becomes law either with the Governor's signature, or on the date of the bill. The only way for a bill to die at this stage is with an explicit veto by the Governor; this veto can be overridden by a 2/3rd vote in each house.

(our thanks to Adoree Blaire for this information)