Primer: The Legislative Process

HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW

STEP 1: Bill is filed

From the time before the even session starts to 60 days in, lawmakers, legislative staff, and interest groups form legislative priorities and craft legislation. Most bills are filed with the full intention of pushing them through to law; some are filed in the full knowledge that they won’t pass, but serve the purpose to lay the foundation for future sessions or appease certain voting groups. When a bill, let’s say House Bill 1 (H.B. 1), is filed in the House, it is assigned to a committee by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

STEP 2: Bill passes out of House Committee

Once a bill reaches committee, the committee chairperson wields much power on its survival. (Note that committee chairmanships are granted by the Speaker in the House and the lieutenant governor in the Senate.) The chair determines when the bill will be heard—day and time—or if it will be heard at all. Many times a bill will be laid out before the committee, tabled, and never called up again, sometimes because of a back room agreement to kill a “bad bill.” The best case for H.B. 1 is that it is laid out before committee members, advocates give moving testimony, and the bill is voted favorably out of committee.

STEP 3 – Bill is voted on by the full House

From here, H.B. 1 must be scheduled by the Committee on Calendars to be heard on the House floor. The two calendars important for law-passing purposes are the Daily House Calendar (that lists new bills) and the Supplemental House Calendar (that lists bills from the Daily calendar, bills passed to third reading the previous day, bills or postponed business from the previous day, and bills that were tabled the previous day). Bills listed on the Local and Consent Calendar are local or noncontroversial bills that are typically passed very quickly without much, if any, debate.

Calendar placement is very important, particularly toward the end of the session as each deadline kills scores of bills by the stroke of midnight. A bill has to be heard on the House floor and pass in time to go through the whole Senate process, all before sine die, the last day of the legislative session.

STEP 4 – Bill passes out of Senate Committee

Because our H.B. 1 does not have a companion bill in the Senate, which would shorten the process considerably, H.B. 1 is assigned to a Senate committee by the lieutenant governor where it goes through the same committee hearings as it did in the House. When H.B. 1 is passed, it proceeds to the next step.

STEP 5 –Bill is voted on by the full Senate

The bill now goes to the Senate. If the Senate doesn’t bring up a bill on the day it is listed on the Intent Calendar, a senator must take action to list it on the following day’s calendar. Deadlines may get in the way: If a bill is brought up for second reading, but not the third, it cannot pass. In our case, H.B. 1 passes without amendments and goes on to the next step.

STEP 6 – Bill is sent to Governor

Once the bill passes the Senate and has been sent back to the House, the bill is prepared for signing, signed by the Speaker and the lieutenant governor, and sent to the governor who must sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without signature. The last day the governor can take action on a bill passed during the 2017 regular session is in June. If vetoed after sine die, the bill is dead. If H.B. 1 is signed, it moves on to the next and final stage.

STEP 7 – Bill Becomes Law

H.B. 1 becomes law!

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Source [edited]: Texas Academy of Family Physicians 

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