A bill is passed and becomes law through a several step process.
In order to pass, a bill must go through:
three "readings" in one house;
three "readings" in the other house; and
be signed by the Governor (there are exceptions to this rule).
Introduce A Bill
When a bill begins its journey through the legislative process, it is announced in the Senate (or House as the case may be) by bill number and name.
This announcement is called "introducing a bill."
Introducing a bill is also referred to as being "read across the desk."
Both terms are the equivalent of first reading, one of three that occurs in the House and in the Senate.
If a bill begins in the Senate, it is given an SB (Senate Bill) designation. The year the bill is introduced follows, and the bill number follows the year.
So, in the case of COA's direct access bill that began in the Senate in 2000, the full number was SB00-95.
If a bill begins in the House, the designation is HB. Bills are commonly referred to only by the actual bill number, e.g., HB 1001.
Both House and Senate have standing "Committees of Reference."
Each committee has a name that generally reflects the issues with which it deals.
For example, the Committee on Health and Human Services is the committee that will almost always deal with scope of practice issues. The Committee on Business Affairs and Labor has also worked on bills relating to scope of practice.
Any bill that includes the use of state funds is usually assigned to two committees, the first being the subject area and the second the Appropriations Committee.
Bill Assignments to Committees
All bills introduced in the Senate are assigned to committees by the President of the Senate.
All bills introduced in the House of Representatives are assigned to committees by the Speaker of the House.
Assignment of bill can be critical to a bill's passage or demise.
Without a doubt, certain bills are sent to certain committees because the votes on that committee are already known.
Legislators often ask for their bills to be assigned to a specific committee.
Only legislators can introduce bills.
The legislator who introduces a particular bill is known as the bill's 'sponsor' or 'prime sponsor'.
There may be additional legislators listed on a bill; they are known as co-sponsors.
Carry a Bill
To shepherd a bill through the legislative process.
A bill's prime sponsor is said to be 'carrying' the bill.
Once a bill receives a committee assignment, the committee chairman schedules the bill for hearing.
The usual hearing process is as follows:
The legislator who is carrying the bill is given the opportunity to explain the bill and answer questions from the committee.
Then the chairman calls witnesses to testify.
Following public testimony the chairman puts the "bill on the table for amendments".
Any member of the committee can offer an amendment to the bill. After discussion and questions a vote is taken on the amendment.
Once all amendments have been offered the chairman puts "the bill on the table for action".
Committee Action on a Bill
Committees can vote to send a bill to the floor with a favorable recommendation, the most positive outcome for a bill's sponsor and supporters.
Committees can also vote to send a bill to another committee of reference, sometimes used as a strategy to kill a bill.
Bills can also be 'postponed indefinitely', which is a fancy way of saying that the bill is dead.
The Bill Was Heard
The expression means that the bill was presented to a committee, testimony in support and opposition was presented to (or heard by) the committee, followed by committee action on the bill.
Take A Bill Off The Table
A prerogative of a committee chairman is to decide when certain actions to a bill can occur.
A bill can be "on the table" for testimony, "on the table" for amendment or "on the table" for action.
When a bill is "off the table", no action can be taken on it.
After a House bill passes out of a committee, it is debated by the full House and Senate bills that pass out of committee are debated by the full Senate.
This debate process is called second reading.
Bills may be amended and a final "yes" or "no" voice vote on passage is taken at the end of the debate.
During second reading the members of each House sit as a Committee of the Whole.
Committee of The Whole
A committee composed of the entire membership of one of the Houses.
It allows each House to consider proposed legislation informally, without being bound by the requirements on formal consideration, e.g., time limits on debate and the necessity of maintaining a quorum (and it accounts for the mild pandemonium one sometimes observes during second reading).
After a House sits as a Committee of the Whole, the House returns to sitting as a House (or Senate) and through a recorded vote approves the work of the Committee of the Whole.
If a bill survives second reading, the bill is subject to third reading, which is essentially the last and final recorded vote on a bill.
If a bill passes second reading, it almost always passes third reading.
Second and third reading may not occur on the same day.
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