It is hard to believe that the 2015 legislative session has already reached the halfway mark. The House has studied, debated and passed many significant pieces of legislation over the past couple of months, and we worked long hours to ensure that only the best bills passed out of the House before the deadlines expired. Now, those bills will move to the Senate for further discussion and debate, and we will begin reviewing the bills they sent us in the House.
Each bill has a life as it travels through the legislative process, and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss what that process will be like during the second half of session.
Over the past several months, as legislation passed out of the House, the author of each bill was asked to name a Senate sponsor. The sponsor will carry the bill through the legislative process in the Senate and vice versa in the House. After that, bills are assigned to different committees, known as first reading, which means that a bipartisan group of lawmakers will be able to review, discuss and listen to testimony on the bills they are assigned. If the bill passes out of committee, it will then be brought to the Senate or House floor for amendments. Once the opportunity to amend the bill is over, it will be up for final vote.
On many occasions, legislation passes out of both the House and Senate chambers without any changes. However, if a bill passes out of one chamber but then is changed by the other, the chamber the bill originated in has to agree on the changes.
For the next step of the process, if an agreement is not met, a conference committee becomes necessary. A conference committee consists of two members from each chamber who must sign a report to move a bill forward, which will then be voted on in both chambers. Once the committee report passes, the bill will be sent to the governor for his signature.
Conference committees can be a long process and often times the discussions are difficult because they can lead to the end of a bill. If the members on the committee cannot agree, then the bill will not be sent to the Governor for his signature.
A bill can die at many different times during the legislative process but the most common way is that the legislation did not receive enough votes in either chamber. During third reading, a bill can gain approval by more than half of the legislators voting and fail to pass because a constitutional majority is required, which equals 51 votes in the House and 26 votes in the Senate. Bills can also die during committee meetings and on the House floor.
The life of each bill is exciting, especially during the second half of session, so I encourage you to get involved and follow legislation that interests you. During the second half, we will collaborate closely and often with our Senate colleagues in order to increase the bill’s chances of making it out of both chambers. I look forward to reviewing Senate bills that come over to the House and am eager to pass legislation that will have a positive impact on Hoosiers everywhere.