How a Bill Becomes a Law

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How a Bill Becomes a Law

While it is important to make your voice heard at every step in the legislative process, there are two periods where you can have the most influence - before a bill is introduced, and when a bill is being considered by committee.

The following is a very brief overview of how an issue gets introduced as a bill. You can find references for a more detailed discussion under Advocacy Resources.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

When an issue has gained enough support, an individual legislator or group of legislators will work to introduce a bill. This can happen in either the Assembly or the Senate.

Before it is introduced, there is a lot of effort to ensure the bill will have enough support to survive the legislative process. This includes a review by the Legislative Reference Bureau, the non-partisan agency that ensure the bill complies with all applicable state and federal laws.

It is also during this time that the legislator tries to find co-sponsors, or other legislators who agree to formally support the bill by adding their names to it. Generally speaking, the more co-sponsors that a bill has, the more likely a bill will survive the legislative process and become law.

When you are advocating, it is important to contact as many legislators as possible to express your support for a bill. However, keep in mind that you will likely be most persuasive with your own legislators, since you are directly responsible for electing him or her.

Once the behind the scenes work is done, the bill can finally be introduced. Bills originating from the Assembly begin with "AB," while those from the Senate begin "SB."

After the first reading, the bill is referred to committee. The committee is determine by the type of legislation being proposed. A child health bill introduced in the Senate, for example, may go to the Senate Committee on Health. In the committee the bill is studied and debated by legislators who have a particular interest and knowledge of the type of legislation. During this time, the bill is often refined and even substantially altered from its original content. Once a committee has finished with the changes, it votes on whether to send the bill to the chamber for a "floor vote," or vote by the entire chamber. If the committee decides not to send it to the floor, a bill can "die" or fail to survive.