Arizona Mining Association

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How a Bill Becomes Law

 

A. Legislation is introduced - Any member can introduce a piece of legislation.  There are essentially two types of legislation, both of which follow the same route into law:

1) Authorization bills -- establish programs and policies, also set recommended budget levels.

2) Appropriations bills -- provide the actual funding for government programs and agencies on an annual basis

House of Representatives - Legislation is handed to the clerk of the House or placed in the hopper.

Senate - Members must gain recognition of the presiding officer to announce the introduction of a bill during the morning hour. If any senator objects, the introduction of the bill is postponed until the next day.

The bill is assigned a number. (e.g. HR 1 or S 1), labeled with the sponsor's name, and is sent to the Government Printing Office (GPO) where copies are made.  Senate bills can be jointly sponsored. Members can cosponsor the piece of Legislation.

B.  Committee Action - The bill is referred to the appropriate committee by the Speaker of the House or the presiding officer in the Senate. Most often, the actual referral decision is made by the House or Senate parliamentarian. Bills may be referred to more than one committee and it may be split so that parts are sent to different committees. The Speaker of the House may set time limits on committees. Bills are placed on the calendar of the committee to which they have been assigned. Failure to act on a bill is equivalent to killing it. Bills in the House can only be released from committee without a proper committee vote by a discharge petition signed by a majority of the House membership (218 members).

Committee Steps: 

1. Comments about the bill's merit are requested by government agencies. 

2. Bill can be assigned to subcommittee by Chairman. 

3. Hearings may be held. 

4. Subcommittees report their findings to the full committee. 

5. Finally there is a vote by the full committee - the bill is "ordered to be reported." 

6. A committee will hold a "mark-up" session during which it will make revisions and additions. If substantial amendments are made, the committee can order the introduction of a "clean bill" which will include the proposed amendments. This new bill will have a new number and will be sent to the floor while the old bill is discarded. The chamber must approve, change or reject all committee amendments before conducting a final passage vote. 

7. After the bill is reported, the committee staff prepares a written report explaining why they favor the bill and why they wish to see their amendments, if any, adopted. Committee members who oppose a bill sometimes write a dissenting opinion in the report. The report is sent back to the whole chamber and is placed on the calendar. 

8. In the House, most bills go to the Rules Committee before reaching the floor. The committee adopts rules that will govern the procedures under which the bill will be considered by the House. A "closed rule" sets strict time limits on debate and forbids the introduction of amendments. These rules can have a major impact on whether the bill passes. The rules committee can be bypassed in three ways: 1) members can move rules to be suspended (requires 2/3 vote); 2) a discharge petition can be filed; or 3) the House can use a Calendar Wednesday procedure.

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