A legislator drafts a bill. Legislators sometimes work with advocates to craft the language that will be included in legislation or to draft amendments to a bill that has already been introduced. The sponsor may also recruit his/her colleagues as cosponsors during this time.
The bill is formally introduced, assigned a bill number, and referred to the appropriate committee(s).
Committee leadership decides which bills will receive the most attention. Committees may hold hearings on a bill, propose and adopt amendments, and vote on approval of a bill—or they can let a bill die by failing to take any action. If a bill is voted on and approved at the committee level, it is reported out to the full house or senate for consideration.
Bills reported out of committee are placed on the house or senate calendar for debate by the full chamber. Legislators may be given a chance to speak about the bill during the debate. If the bill is not placed on the calendar, then action may not be taken on the bill. When debate concludes, a vote is taken to either approve or defeat a bill.
Once the bill has been passed by the house and senate, a conference committee meets to reconcile the differences in bills.
The house and senate must approve the changes made by the conference committee. This is an up or down vote. They do not reconsider specific provisions.
The governor may sign the bill into law; veto the bill; veto and send it back to the legislature with suggestions for reconsideration; or take no action (in some states that will lead to the bill becoming law after a specific period of time). If a Governor vetoes a bill, the legislature may override that decision, typically by a two-thirds vote in both the house and senate.
For information on a specific state’s legislative process, visit http://www.statescape.com/resources/bill_to_law/bill_to_law.aspx
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