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How a Bill Becomes a Law

Any of the legislators can introduce some sort of legislation. If a member of the Congress introduces a bill it is handed to the clerk of the House.  The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) offers its assistance in drafting the bill and preparing it in the required technical form. If the bill is not called for its First Reading, it ‘dies’. After the introduction, the bill is assigned a number and is labeled with the sponsor’s name. Next the bill is given to the GPO – Government Printing Office, for it to make copies. If a legislator (either a Representative or a Senator) is willing to sponsor a bill (an original idea, or a suggestion for example from some interest group), they may ask other legislators to become co-sponsors, regardless of the party they belong to .

After that, the appropriate committee works with the bill, sometimes with time limits. The bill is referred to the committee by the Speaker of the House or the presiding officer of the Senate. It can be referred to more than one committee if needed, or divided into parts so that different committees work on different parts of the bill. The Head of the Senate or the House of Representatives may decide not to refer the bill to any committee in which case the bill ‘dies’. The Head of the committee may decide not to set the bill for the Hearing, in which case the bill ‘dies’. In another event, the bill is set for a public hearing; here the committee discusses the benefits and disadvantages of the bill. After this hearing the bill is voted upon or set aside. If it is set aside the bill may be voted upon in the future or not, if not the bill ‘dies’. During the vote the bill is either voted for and advances or against and is defeated. In the case when the bill advances it can either be set for the Second Hearing or not, if not the bill ‘dies’.

If the bill is set for the Second Hearing, the members of the house of origin can introduce their amendments to it, these amendments may be approved through voting of the body of legislators. After the discussion of the amendments, the very bill is voted upon, if it is

voted for, it advances, if not, it ‘dies’. Then the bill can be set for the Third Reading, if it is not, the bill ‘dies’. During the Third Reading, the amendments can also be introduced, but they are not approved unless two thirds of the legislators vote for those amendments.  After that the bill once again comes to vote, the bill advances if a simple majority supports it, if not the bill ‘dies’. After being approved in the house of origin, the bill is given to the other house and the procedure repeats. Here again the bill must be voted for in the First Reading, by the Committee, also in the Second and the Third Readings. Just like in the case with the house of origin, the bill can ‘die’ during any of those stages. The other house, just like the house of origin can propose and approve amendments to the bill. 

After the bill passes though the other chamber there are two options. If the bill was passed without any amendments form the side of the second chamber, it is sent to the Governor for signature. If amendments were introduces by the second chamber the bill returns to the house of origin. If the house of origin approves the changes introduced by the second chamber the bill is sent to the Governor for signature. If the second chamber introduced changes which the first chamber does not approve, and the two chambers want the bill to advance it is sent to the Conference Committee, which consists of representatives of the two chambers. If they do not reach agreement the bill ‘dies’. If they do reach agreement the bill is sent to the two chambers. The bill must be approved by both chambers before it is sent to the Governor for signature. The Governor may sign it, and the bill becomes a law, or veto it. In case of a veto, a simple majority of both chambers can over-ride the veto if they vote for it, and the bill becomes a law, if the chambers do not vote for over-riding the veto, the bill ‘dies’. The bill becomes a law according to the date which is specified in its body.