How a Bill Becomes a LawFor many of us, what we learned in high school government is a distant memory. The intricacies of the legal system and the process for how a bill becomes a law are not top priorities in our busy lives. We all know the basic functions of government and the role of each of the three branches, but knowing the legislative process is equally as important.
The upcoming legislative session starting on January 7th, and the General Assembly will debate the issues that matter most to you and your family. An engaged citizenry is critical to the democratic process. We are all capable of ensuring that our state’s laws are meaningful and enact positive change.
As a member of the General Assembly, one of my most pressing and immediate duties is to aid in the lawmaking process. I want to play a role to make sure each law is in the best interest of our community and all Hoosiers in Indiana.
Focusing on this year’s Legislature, the bill deadline is Monday, Jan. 14. After a bill is submitted, it is assigned to a committee that handles the subject matter of the bill. For example, if I submitted a bill altering laws about water pollution in Indiana, it would probably be assigned to the Natural Resources Committee. After the bill is assigned to a committee by the Speaker of the House, or the President Pro Tempore in the Senate, it goes through three “readings.”
In the first reading, the chairperson of the committee decides if the bill should be given a committee hearing. Once the bill is heard in committee, the members of that committee vote to decide if the bill should keep moving. If the bill receives a majority vote, then it passes out of the committee and is then called an adopted committee report. From there, it is sent to the full chamber for the second reading.
During the second reading, the adopted committee report is heard before the entire chamber. This is the legislators’ opportunity to offer amendments to the bill. The amendments are debated and all debates on the floor must be about the amendments, not the full bill itself. After the amendments have been heard, the bill will receive a vote with or without any of the new amendments. If the bill passes, it becomes “engrossed” and it will then enter the third reading stage.
At the third and final reading, the whole chamber hears the engrossed bill again. However, this time the bill is debated in its entirety. At the end of the debate, the bill is voted on. It passes from that chamber if it receives the majority vote, and if it passes, then it is sent to the opposite chamber. From there the process begins again with a first reading.
A lot can happen to a bill after it passes out of the chamber it originates in. The goal is for it to get support and go all the way through both chambers to be signed into law by the governor.
Hopefully this quick refresher will be a helpful tool as you follow the proceedings at the Statehouse during the legislative session. Following the status of a bill is not always easy, but it can be a good way to keep up with legislation that is important to you. As always, please feel free to contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-232-9850 if you have any questions or concerns.
State Rep. Cindy Ziemke serves as Vice Chairman of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Ziemke represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.