IV. How a Bill Becomes a Law

To understand how a bill becomes a law is to understand the many procedures within the system of public policy which you may eventually want to impact on a personal or organizational level.

Please watch the 3 minute video below.  I realize it’s intended for children, but most adults may not have had recent exposure to these principles and this provides a terrifically straightforward overview.  The video really simplifies it and still provides a solid foundation for topics to follow.

So, to summarize and elaborate on what you have just seen in the video:

  1. Individuals or organization contact their legislator(s) to discuss an idea (some of these ideas come directly from a legislator).
  2. The legislator (who is now a sponsor of the bill) writes the bill and recruits other legislators for their support of that particular bill. Every bill needs a sponsor in Congress (the chance of a bill becoming a law increases if there is a greater number of sponsors and co-sponsors)
  3. The bill is introduced to either the Senate or the House of Representatives (depending on which house the sponsor belongs to).  All revenue bills must first be introduced in the House, where they will pass through the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over revenue bills.
  4. A hearing is often held before a standing committee.  Committee hearings are open to the public (giving you an opportunity to testify for or against a bill).
  5. Committee members review, research, and revise the bill before voting.
  6. If the committee approves the bill, the Senate or House of Representatives (whichever legislative chamber the bill was originally introduced to) debates, edits, and votes on the new draft of the bill.
  7. If the majority votes in favor of the bill, it is certified and sent to other house of congress (the legislative chamber that the bill has not been introduced to yet), where it goes through the same process of committee hearings and votes.
  8. If the bill passes both chambers, it is sent to the president (or governor, if it is a state bill) to either be signed or vetoed within 10 days.
  9. In the case of a veto, the legislature may override it with a vote from 2/3 of the members in each chamber.
  10. With the signature of the president or governor OR the override of a veto by the legislature, the bill becomes a law! Before it goes into effect, regulations on how it is to be implemented must be published in the Federal Register. 
  11. The law takes effect 90 days after it passes unless there is an emergency clause to deem it effective immediately.

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