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