Understanding The Legislative Process

01 Create a bill

A bill is the first step in lawmaking. Anyone can have an idea for a law or bill, but only members of the House and Senate can introduce a bill by sponsoring it.

02 Committee Oversight

Once a bill is drafted it is then referred to the appropriate committee in the House or Senate. Committees are sub-organizations formed around different subject matters and consist of members who have the knowledge to monitor ongoing government operations, identify issues for review, evaluate information and make recommendations for courses of action.

03 Committee Action

When a bill is with a committee it is examined carefully and its journey to “the floor” is determined. Committees hold public hearings to determine how useful or necessary a bill is. If the committee does not act on a bill, the bill dies. In some cases bills.

Committees hold public hearings to determine how useful or necessary a bill is. If the committee does not act on a bill, the bill dies.

04 Scheduling Floor Action

After a bill is reported back to the chamber where it originated, it is placed on a calendar to be reviewed by the full body of either branch of your local and federal government  (please note each individual state legislature and the federal government  has its own process for scheduling floor action) are referred to sub-committees that conduct a similar process. This phase is extremely important. Making your voice be heard during public hearings is a critical component to swaying legislative decisions. Once the committee members vote on the bill and if it is passed it then gets reported for “floor action” (where all members of either chamber come together to debate and vote on the bill).

05 debate

Some bills get debated, some don't. It's usually highly contested bills with high media and constituent coverage that warrant discussion. The committee decides how much time to allot to each person. Then the bill is voted on.

06 Voting

After the debate and the approval of any amendments, the bill is passed or defeated by the members voting. If passed, it is then sent to the other chamber, unless that chamber already has a similar measure under review.  

07 referral to the chamber

When a bill is passed in either branch, it is referred to the other where it usually follows the same route through committee and floor action. The chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or change it. These processes can happen simultaneously in some instances. If either chamber does not pass the bill it dies.

Laws govern our lives. They can uphold white supremacy and systemic racism but before these laws are passed a bill must be drafted.

8. Conference Committee Action

If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, it is common for the legislation to go back to the first chamber for agreement. Both chambers must approve any changes made before the bill can move forward. If the House and Senate pass different bills they are sent to the Conference Committee. Most major legislation goes to a Conference Committee.

9. Final actions

After a bill has been approved by both chambers in identical form, it is sent to the Executive chamber (President) and if approved the bill becomes law. Or, the Executive chamber can take no action which means the bill is vetoed aka the legislation dies.

10. Overriding a veto

If the Executive chamber vetoes a bill, either house may attempt to override the veto. The president usually returns a vetoed bill with a message indicating his reasons for rejecting the measure. The veto can be overridden only by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House.

“ Reclaiming my time, Reclaiming my time, reclaiming my time…” — Maxine Waters, D-CA 43rd District

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