This guide will help you understand the legislative process.
A bill is a proposal for a new law, including the repeal of existing law. Laws don't necessarily create new rules for the public to follow. They can require the government to take certain actions for the public's benefit, like disclose more information for public scrutiny, which can increase transparency and accountability.
Typically, bills must pass through all of the House and Senate committees they're assigned to. But if a bill doesn't pass out of a committee, it can be recalled during a floor session.
Bill Introduction, First Reading, and Committee Referrals
Bills are written and introduced by the House and Senate chambers of the Legislature. Bills are not assigned a number until after being submitted to each chamber's clerk's office. House bills start with "HB," and Senate bills start with "SB." House and Senate members then convene (i.e., meet) in their respective chambers to introduce their bills and then refer (i.e., assign) them to committees.
It's up to each commmittee chair to decide whether or not to hear each bill referred to his or her committee. Bills must pass through every committee they're referred to in order to become a law. Otherwise, a recall vote by enough legislators can bypass the committee and bring it to the floor for a vote before the entire chamber. If the chamber votes in favor of the bill's passage, it can continue to advance through the Legislature.
If a committee chair decides to schedule a hearing for a bill that was referred to his or her committee, then members of the committee meet to discuss the merits of the bill with other government officials or members of the public who want to testify in support or in opposition. Testifiers can also submit comments without stating a position.
At the end of the hearing, the chair can decide to defer decision making on all or individual bills to a later, specified date. The chair can also decide to defer a bill indefinately, which can mean that the bill will stop advancing through the Legislature. It can also mean that the chair is simply not ready to determine when the next hearing will be. If the required number of members are present, the chair can also decide to go into decision making and vote to pass each bill with or without amendments. The chair can also call a vote to hold a bill, which is another way to stop a bill's advancement through the Legislature. While a vote is required to hold, it's not mechanically more effective than deferring.
If a bill fails to pass out of a committee, it can be recalled during a floor session if there are enough votes to do so. The bill would then continue advancing.
Second Reading, Thrid Reading, First Crossover
A bill that passes out of a committee is voted on by the entire chamber again before advancing. at which point it may be amended. If a bill was referred to two or three committees, it then moves on to its next committee. At the end of Third Reading, any remaining bills cross over to the other chamber -- House to Senate for bills introduced in the House.
Repeat in the Other Chamber
The bill follows the same previous steps in the other chamber. If a House bill crosses over to the Senate, then it is heard in Senate committees and voted on by the entire Senate.
Any bills that make it through the non-originating chamber's hearings and floor sessions cross back over to the originating chamber, which can then agree or disagree with any amendments made to its bills.
If an originating chamber disagrees with amendments made by the non-originating chamber (e.g. a House bill is amended by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means), then selected members from both chambers meet in conference committee hearings. Public testimony cannot be submitted to the committees.
Final Reading and Certification
Both chambers vote on and then certify the final versions of the bill and send it to the governor.
The governor reviews the bill and either signs it, doesn't sign it, or vetoes it. A veto stops a bill passed by the Legislature from becoming a law unless the veto is overridden. The Legislature can override a veto if a two-thirds majority from each chamber votes in favor of the override. If the governor doesn't sign or veto a bill by a certain deadline, it automatically becomes law.
The Bill Becomes a Law
The bill is turned into an act and becomes a law.