bullet Track a House or Senate Bill
 bullet Find the Text of House Bills
 bullet Find the Text of Senate Bills
 bullet Read the House Journal
 bullet See What's on the House Calendar
 bullet The Massachusetts Constitution
 bullet The Rules of the House of Representatives
 bullet Look up the Massachusetts General Laws




"Legislation and adjudication must follow, and conform to, the progress of society."
 Statehouse Chamber
-Abraham Lincoln 1858
It's easy to keep track of a bill or to follow the actions of the House of Representatives.

In brief, bills are filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives, and then the Clerk reports each bill to one of the 21 legislative committees. The Committees hold public hearings on all bills and then must give each bill either a favorable report, an unfavorable report, or undertake a study of the matter. At this point, the bills are referred back to the Clerk and the Committee's report marks the bill's first reading. The bills are then either referred to another committee or placed in the House Calendar for a second reading by the House.

After the bill takes a second reading, it is open for unlimited debate and amendments on the House floor. If the bill receives a favorable vote, it is referred to the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading where it is checked for legality, constitutionality, and statutory consistency. Following a report from the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, the House then votes on "passing the bill to be engrossed."

After this, the bill is sent to the Senate, and it must go through three readings and engrossment in that branch. If the bill is passed by the Senate with changes, the House votes on a compromise amendment, and if that fails, the bill goes into a conference committee which consists of three Senators and three Representatives. When a compromise is reached, the bill is sent to both branches for approval. The House then votes to enact the bill, and the Senate follows.

The bill is then sent to the Governor to be signed into law. If the Governor does not sign the bill within ten days, it automatically becomes law unless the legislative session ends before the ten days expire, at which point the bill dies. The Governor can also veto the bill or send it back to the House with recommended changes. The House and Senate can override a gubernatorial veto with a 2/3 vote of the membership. After a bill becomes law, it usually takes effect in 90 days.

The House must meet in session at least every third day (excluding state holidays and Sundays), and after every meeting, the Clerk of the House of Representatives publishes a House Journal which details all of the legislative actions of that day's session. The House Calendar, known as the Orders of the Day, lists bills that can be taken up at a House Session. You can also attend the legislative hearings held by the different committees. For a schedule of hearings, check your local newspapers or call the House Clerk at 617-722-2356.