The Indiana legislative process
How does a bill become a law? We all learned about this process in our high school government class and I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand last session. So, for those who have lost their high school notes, here is a lesson on how a bill becomes Indiana state law.
First, a legislator talks to constituents and learns what legislation they think is needed to better their community. Legislators write bills, but often those bill ideas come from constituents themselves. After a bill has been written, the author introduces it in either the House or the Senate.
Second, the bill will be heard on first reading where it is assigned to a committee.
In committee, a bill will receive discussion by committee members and public testimony. Public testimony is vital to this stage of the process because it allows us to hear how you and fellow Hoosiers across the state feel about a particular piece of legislation. After hearing public testimony, members may add amendments to address concerns brought up during public testimony and then vote on whether or not the bill should move onto the full House or Senate.
If the bill is approved by the committee, it will then be heard on second reading. Any of the 100 House members has an opportunity to offer an amendment to the bill as it was passed out of committee. Each amendment is voted on separately and requires a majority vote to be adopted.
Next, the bill will be heard on third reading, which is when either the full House or Senate will vote to approve or defeat a bill in its entirety.
If the bill is approved on third reading, it switches from its chamber of origin to the opposite chamber. The bill then begins the exact same process in the other chamber where it subject to be amended further, approved or defeated.
After each chamber has passed the bill things can get a little tricky. It is at this point that one of three things can happen.
One, if no changes have been made the bill goes straight to the Governor.
Two, if the bill is amended in the second house, it must return to its house of origin so that changes can be either be approved or dissented from. If the changes are approved, the bill then goes to the Governor.
If the majority of the original house disagrees, the bill is sent to a conference committee. A conference committee is made up of four legislators, two from each chamber who will study the bill and come up with an agreement which is then voted on by both chambers. If both houses approve, then the bill moves to the Governor’s desk.
Or third, the bill can be killed if both chambers do not agree upon changes.
The final step is action from the Governor who also has several options. He can sign a bill into law, veto it, or do nothing. If he does nothing, the bill will become law without his signature in seven days. If he vetoes it, legislators can override the veto with a majority vote.
The bill making process is extensive but for good reason. This process ensures each piece of legislation gets fully vetted and that only the most needed legislation gets passed for Hoosiers and their families.