Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Legislative Process

The final deadline for legislators to file their bills is almost here. This will represent the culmination of a year-long process as a list of possible legislation is refined down to the eight bills that each Representative is allowed to file.

I have found that it is probably wise to introduce a balanced portfolio of legislation that advances the effort to institute sweeping reforms and also legislation that has an increased chance of passage.

Passing a piece of legislation is a challenging process that is long and complex. Only a small percentage of introduced bills (with the exception of appropriations bills) is successfully signed into law.

Last year in the House, this is the course a bill had to take in order to be signed into law:

* The House author must have successfully convinced a Senator to sponsor his bill in the Senate. It is important to choose a Senator based on his/her abilities and commitment to the principle of the bill.

* The bill then would have likely been assigned to a House subcommittee where the Chairman of the subcommittee agreed to give the bill a hearing. The full subcommittee voted on the idea.

* If the bill was approved in subcommittee, it was assigned to a full committee where once again the Chairman had to give the bill a hearing and the full committee was required to vote on passage.

* A bill passed by a committee must have received permission from the majority floor leader in order to be considered by the full House. If he/she consented to a hearing on the floor of the House, the full House had to vote on passage.

* Once the bill was approved by the House, it was sent to the Senate where the process was repeated, including a committee hearing (unless either of the Senate Committee Co-Chairs disagreed), a vote in committee and a vote on the floor of the Senate.

* Most likely the bill was then assigned to a conference committee. If either the Senate or the House failed to assign conference committee members to the bill prior to the deadline for assignments, the bill died. If those individuals were assigned, then the bill had to receive the support of a majority.

* If the conference committee approved the bill, it needed approval once again from the House and Senate. If the bill was not scheduled by the deadline in either House, it did not pass. If both Houses (House of Representatives and Senate) approved the bill, it was sent to the governor for approval. If the governor vetoed the bill, it had to go back to the House and the Senate for a possible override vote. In order to override the governor's veto, at least two thirds of both House and Senate must vote for the override. In the past 15 years, only one bill has become law despite a veto.

This is the task that faced by Representatives in the upcoming months as they advocate for their legislation.

In the past I have enjoyed the opportunity to seek passage for a number of pieces of legislation that have been suggested by House District 31 constituents, and look forward to doing it again this year.

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