[R67] How a bill becomes a law

Posted by: Courtney Scott  | Friday, January 2, 2015

Have you ever taken interest in a piece of legislation and tracked its status only to become confused by all of the steps which make up the legislative process? Chances are you are not alone. The truth is, the legislative process is fairly complex and thus, difficult to understand. In fact, the process is so strenuous that on average, only two or three of every 10 bills survives the course to become law. However, in order for Hoosiers to truly be informed, I think it is crucial that everyone understand this process.

Each year, many of the bills that are introduced come from legislators who are out in their districts receiving feedback on the wants and needs of their constituents. Once a bill is drafted, it is first read by title on the House floor. This is the first time that other legislators and the public are introduced to the bill.

Then, House Speaker Brian Bosma will assign the bill to a committee, which is a small group of representatives whose job is to consider the merits of the legislation and determine whether or not it should proceed to a vote by the full House. This session, I will once again be serving as chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee, in addition to serving as a member of the Roads and Transportation and the Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications committees. 

Once a bill has been assigned to a committee, the committee has multiple options. They can keep the bill language as is, add more provisions or remove some. During these hearings, both industry experts and the general public have the opportunity to testify in front of committee members. These meetings are always open to the public and streamed live on the iga.in.gov website. If the bill passes out of committee with a simple majority, it then moves onto second reading.

During second reading, the bill is discussed before the entire House and is ready for amendment, recommitment or engrossment. This means that legislators can propose amendments to the bill, recommit it to another committee for further discussion or simply move forward without any modifications. Any amendments that are made during second reading must win the approval of a majority of legislators before the amended bill can move onto third reading.

Third reading allows an opportunity for legislators to debate the merits of the bill before it is put up for a final vote. In order to pass, the bill must receive at least 51 votes. If it does, it then moves onto the Senate to begin this entire process over again.

The Senate is able to make further amendments, however these amendments must also be agreed upon by the House. If the House is not willing to agree to the amendments, a conference committee is established to work out the differences. Each conference committee consists of two members from the House and two members from the Senate. Once an agreement is reached, all four members must sign the conference committee report, and then it must be passed by both the House and Senate.

Once a bill has made it this far, it is ready to be sent to the governor. Every bill that is sent to the governor is also sent to the attorney general so that it can be examined for legality. Once the attorney general says it is legal and okay to move forward, the governor can either chose to sign the bill into law, or if he does not sign it within seven days, it can still become law without his signature. The governor also has the option to veto the law, in which case the Legislature can override the veto with a majority vote.

As you can see, this is an extensive process, however it was not made complex simply for the sake of being complex. All of these integral steps are necessary to ensure that only the best policies become law. Every piece of legislation is given proper inspection and assessed not only on how it will impact Hoosiers but also on whether it is lawful. As we get into the swing of session, if you would like to keep track of one of my bills, or any other bill, please do not hesitate to contact my office. I can be reached by phone at 317-234-3827 or by email at h67@iga.in.gov.