By Michael Valdez, CBA Director of Legislative Relations, and Jill Lafrenz, CBA Sections and Committees Program Coordinator
From time to time I am asked about the legislative process, so I teamed up with Jill and we created a handy one-pager (life at the capitol is driven by the proverbial one-pager) to walk you through how a bill becomes a law.
A Bill’s Beginning:
- Bills are introduced by legislators – By rule, each legislator is permitted to introduce five bills in each legislative session. Exceptions are made (and made often) to the five bill limit.
- Bills can start in the House of Representatives (House) (65 members) or the Senate (35 members)
Let’s start our bill in the House (the process is mirrored when a bill starts in the Senate):
- Bills are introduced - First Reading by the House clerk. Other than reading the title to the bill nothing really happens at this juncture. This just gets the ball rolling.
- The bill is assigned to a committee of reference (committee) by the Speaker of the House.
- The committee meets to consider the bill after a notice is published.
- The committee hears testimony from the general public and from experts. The bill can be amended by the committee.
- If the committee approves the bill it goes back to the full House for consideration.
Money, money, money — if the bill has fiscal (money) considerations:
- Non-partisan legislative staff prepares a “fiscal note” that details the cost to the State of Colorado.
- The bill has an additional committee to review the bill for the fiscal impact to the state – this committee is the Appropriations Committee in each house.
- If the Appropriations Committee agrees to the cost of the bill, that committee amends the bill with an appropriations clause and the bill moves to the floor for Second Reading.
On Second & Third Reading the House:
- The report of the committee is considered; including any amendments.
- The bill is debated by the “committee of the whole” additional amendments can be offered and considered.
- If bill passes on Second Reading it is listed on the next day’s calendar for Third and final reading in the House.
- If the bill passes on Third Reading it is sent to the Senate where the process starts anew – First Reading, assigned to committee, committee review, sent to floor for consideration on Second and Third Reading.
Bill passes the Senate:
- If the bill passes the Senate without any changes the bill goes to the Governor.
- If the Senate makes changes to the bill the House has the option of agreeing to the changes (concur) or rejecting the changes and asking for a conference committee to iron out the differences.
- Comprised of three members from each house. The conference committee meets to reach an agreement (conference committee report) on the final form of a bill.
- A majority (four or more) is required to move a bill from a conference committee back to the House and Senate.
- After a conference committee report is submitted, the Senate and the House each have a final “yay” or “nay” vote on the bill.
- Once the bill passes both houses, the bill becomes law when the Governor signs it.
- During the session, from the day the Governor receives the bill she/he has 10-days to sign, veto, or let the become law without her or his signature.
- Within the last 10-days of the session the governor has up to 30 days after the legislature adjourns to sign, veto, or let the bill become law without a signature.
If the Governor vetoes a bill:
- The Governor must send a veto message to the legislature.
- The legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds majority vote in BOTH houses.
- If the Governor vetoes a bill after the legislature adjourns for the year there is not an opportunity to override that veto.
For a fun view of the life of how a bill becomes a law, please click here to check out the flow-chart developed by the wonderful nonpartisan staff of the Colorado General Assembly.