Bell: How Does A Bill Become A Law?

Monday, January 25, 2010 7:00 pm

Start Date:  1/25/2010  All Day  
End Date:  1/25/2010    

STATEHOUSE- The first two weeks of the legislative session have been eventful and fast paced. Important legislation on property tax caps has passed through the House and many other bills are in second and third readings.

Often times you read about bills in committee or passing second reading. There are also times when you hear about the bill being debated in the House, and then weeks later in the Senate. So, what really takes place at the Statehouse and what are the steps to making a bill become a law?

I have been receiving several calls regarding the legislative process and as your state representative, I think it is imperative you know what I am doing down here in Indianapolis.

The first step in creating the laws we live by is for a state representative to write a bill. After the bill is drafted, it is then introduced by the author in the House of Representatives. The author of the bill tries to get as many other representatives as possible to support the bill in hopes of making it a law.

The bill is then assigned to a House committee for its first reading by the Speaker of the House. The committee discusses what is good and bad about each bill to understand how the bill will affect Indiana. A committee is made up of a handful of representatives from both Republican and Democrat Houses.

The public can attend committee meetings to offer further input on the bill as well. The committee will decide if the bill should become a law after hearing public testimony and discussing the bill. At this time, they vote to pass the bill on to the full House for more study.

Once a bill has been approved by a committee, legislators receive a copy of it at least two days before its second reading on the House floor. The author presents the bill to the full House, allowing any legislator to try to make an amendment or change to the bill in hopes to make the bill better. A majority is required to approve an amendment.

After all the kinks are worked out, the author presents the bill to the full House and they vote to approve or defeat the bill. Again, a majority, or 51 votes in the House, is needed to approve a bill. At any time, when moving through the house of origin, a bill can be defeated without explanation.

If the bill is approved in the house of origin, it moves to the second house where it goes through the same process again. All approved House bills move to the Senate and vice versa. At this time, the bill may be approved, amended or defeated.

After the bill has been considered by the other chamber, three things can happen. First option, if no changes have been made, the bill is sent to the governor.

Second option, if the bill is amended in the second house, it must return to the house of origin so the changes can be approved or turned down. If the changes are agreed upon, the bill goes to the governor.

If the majority of the original house disagrees to the changes made, the bill is sent to a conference committee for more discussion. A conference committee is made up of two representatives and two senators. These four legislators study the bill and come up with an agreement which is then voted on by both houses. If both houses approve the amended bill, it's sent to the governor.

Third option, the bill can be killed.

The governor has several options once he receives a bill. He can sign the bill into law, veto (reject) or do nothing. If he does nothing, the bill will become law without his signature in seven days. Legislators can override vetoes with a majority vote.

If a bill makes it to this point, it has become a law. The process is long and confusing but it was designed that way so that ideas would be thoroughly examined before it can become law. As always, I welcome your input and feedback, and I am more than willing to do what I can to help you be as actively involved in this process as is possible.