How Do We Get Our Laws?

Unless you remember the words from the Saturday morning School House Rock episode "I'm Just a Bill", you may not know how we get our laws.

It all begins with an idea for a new (or modified) law. That idea can come from anyone, but it must be put in writing, or "authored", by a Senator or Assembly Member. The written form is called a "bill".

The bill is indexed and introduced to either House the Senate or the Assembly. The bill is then read for the first time to the entire floor of either House, then assigned to the appropriate committees for hearing.

During the committee hearings, testimony may be offered in support or opposition to the bill. The committee then votes on the bill. If not passed, the bill "dies in committee".

If passed by a majority vote, the bill is forwarded to the next committee. After all committees have passed the bill, it is presented again to the entire floor. Once approved by the house of origin, the bill is transferred to the other house and the entire process is repeated there.

If a bill is amended in the second house, it must go back to the house of origin for agreement. If the house of origin does not agree, the bill is referred to a bipartisan committee to resolve the differences.

If both houses approve the bill, it goes to the Governor. The Governor has three choices: sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his or her signature, or veto it. A governor's veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses.