Rep. Mahan: Navigating the legislative process

Posted by: Nick Seifer  | Friday, January 12, 2018 11:00 am

The 2018 legislative session is underway and must conclude by March 14. This is when laws can be passed in Indiana. While the process for a proposal to become a law is somewhat complicated, the system works to ensure that the pros and cons of a policy are fully vetted.

The first step for a bill to become a law is gathering ideas and feedback from constituents. These ideas can range from addressing roadway issues to removing obsolete regulations. This is when the official legislative process begins, and legislators get to work on behalf of constituents to develop a bill proposal. This is done in coordination with the Legislative Services Agency, which is a non-partisan office that handles all fiscal analysis and research matters on behalf of all 150 state lawmakers.

The Legislative Services Agency assigns each bill proposal a draft number. For example, the state’s budget bill is always assigned draft number 1001. This is important to note because on the site iga.in.gov, visitors can use draft numbers to read each proposal.

The bill is then assigned to a committee for review, where lawmakers discuss the pros and cons of the suggested legislation. During committee meetings, members can offer amendments to the bill. Each legislator is selected to serve on two or three committees. This year, I will be serving as chair for the House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, and as a member of the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs, and the House Committee on Insurance. 

After a bill is assigned to a committee, members can choose to keep the bill’s language as is, or they can make changes. The general public can testify or attend committee hearings, which are streamed live online at iga.in.gov. If the bill passes out of committee, it then moves to second reading, which takes place in the chamber of the House of Representatives.

While on second reading, the bill is discussed before all 100 House members. Again, members can make changes to the bill if needed. Legislators can either propose amendments to the bill, assign it to another committee or simply pass it forward. Amendments that are made during the second reading must earn a majority vote before the bill makes it to the third reading.

During the third reading, the House will once again debate the pros and cons of the bill before voting on it for a final time. In order to pass, the bill must receive a constitutional majority vote. If this happens, the bill will move to the Senate and the process will be repeated.

The Senate is able to make further amendments, however these amendments must 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 off on the changed bill and then it must be passed by a constitutional majority of both the House and Senate.

If a bill makes it to this point, it is then sent to the governor. The governor can either choose to veto the bill, sign the bill into law or wait seven days for the bill to become law without a signature. Although rare, when a bill is vetoed the legislature can override the governor’s decision with a majority vote.

The process for a bill proposal to become a law can be complicated. There are many steps and changes that take place. Staying informed can enhance your knowledge of the work that’s being done on behalf of Hoosiers.

I value all of your opinions and suggestions. As we move through session, please contact me at 317-234-9499 or h31@iga.in.gov. Stay up-to-date with the Statehouse by signing up for my email newsletter at www.in.gov/h31

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State Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City) represents House District 31, which includes

Blackford County and portions of Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.

 

A high-resolution photo of Mahan can be downloaded by clicking here.