How a Bill Becomes a Law

It is the primary responsibility of the Michigan Legislature to formulate solutions to problems facing Michigan’s citizens. The Legislature does this by enacting laws designed to regulate and protect the activities of the people, business and government of the State. Below is a general and very brief description of the major steps of the legislative process that a bill must go through before it is enacted into law.

What is a bill?

A bill is a proposed law or a proposed change in an existing law. In order for a bill to become a law, it must go through a procedure that provides both the House of Representatives and the Senate the opportunity to carefully consider the proposal and its possible effects.

Where do bills come from?

Prior to and during the drafting of a bill, there are a variety of individuals or groups that play a role in the creation of the bill. Ideas for bills come from many sources, including individual legislators, government agencies, interest groups, court decisions, attorney general opinions, special committees and even ordinary citizens. Anyone with an idea for a law can send a letter to their local Legislator to get him or her to sponsor the idea in a bill.

How does a bill become a law?

The Michigan Legislature is made up of two chambers B the Senate and House of Representatives. Bills may be introduced in either chamber of the Legislature at the State Capitol in Lansing. Upon introduction, each bill is assigned a number. Under the State Constitution, every bill must be read three times in both the House of Representatives and Senate before it can become a law. The Legislators in each chamber must have at least five days to study each bill.

After the first reading, the bill is sent to a committee to be studied. The committee is made up of Legislators who have a special interest in the subject of the bill. Examples of standing committees include: education, family and children services, finance, transportation, technology and energy, employment relations, training and safety and agriculture. Committee members consider a bill by discussing and debating the bill. Sometimes public hearings are also held.

Committee members can approve the bill the way it is, make changes or even rewrite the bill before sending it back to the chamber for the second reading. Once the bill is returned, committee recommendations are considered and any changes may be adopted. The bill then advances to the third reading.

After the third reading, the bill is voted on by all members of the chamber. In order to pass a bill, more than half of the Legislators must vote “yes.” The Legislators can also make changes, vote against the bill or send the bill back to a committee for further study.

Once a bill is passed by either the House of Representatives or Senate, it is sent to the other chamber of the Legislature where it goes through the same steps. For example, if a Senator introduces a bill and it is passed by the Senate, it then goes to the House of Representatives for review. The House sends it to a committee and then votes on the bill.

Sometimes when the Senators and Representatives do not agree, they make changes to the bill. If this happens, the bill has to be sent back to the original chamber so they can agree or disagree with the changes. This is called concurrence.

When more than half of all the members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate agree, the bill is ordered enrolled, then printed and sent to the Governor. The Governor has three choices: sign the bill, veto the bill or do nothing. Bills that have been signed into law by the Governor are filed with the Secretary of State and then assigned a Public Act number. If the Governor does, the bill automatically becomes law after 14 days. If the bill is vetoed while the Legislature is in session, the Legislature may override the veto by a two-thirds vote of the members of each chamber. The bill then becomes law.

This is just a brief version of what it takes for a bill to actually become a law. Legislators spend countless hours reviewing, debating and amending bills, which is why it usually takes a bill over a year from its introduction to reach the Governor’s desk.