How an Idea Becomes a Law

Have you ever wondered where all the laws for our state come from? Are laws always the same? Who is in charge of making laws? All of these are great questions that we’ll answer on this page!

A law always starts with an idea. The idea usually is something that is necessary to help make our state a better place for its citizens. This idea can come from state and local governments, elected officials (like members of the Assembly and Senate), businesses, organizations, and citizens like you!

An idea for a law needs to be presented to a legislator either in the Senate or the Assembly. The legislator will then take the idea to be written into something called a bill. A bill is a proposed law or change to a current law. This is the document that goes through the legislative process before becoming a law.

The bill now has quite a few steps to go through before we can call it a law. The first step that the bill goes through is called the first reading. This is when the bill is given a number, its title is read in front of all the members of the Assembly (or Senate if the bill is starting there), and then it is assigned to a committee.

While the bill is in a committee, the committee members review and discuss the ideas in the bill. Committees have a big job and have to hear many bills during a 120-day session. A committee can take a few actions with the bills they hear. They can recommend that a bill pass as it is written. They can ask for changes to be made to the bill; this is called an amendment. The committee can also choose to do nothing with the bill at all, which would mean that the bill failed to pass. Once the committee takes one of these actions, it is time for the next step for the bill.

If a bill leaves the committee with the recommendation to pass the bill or amend it, the bill goes on to a second reading. If the committee recommended that the bill pass without changes, the next step would be to send the bill in for a third reading. This is where all the members can debate the bill and then vote on whether it should pass or not. If the committee recommended an amendment to the bill, the bill is read in front of all the members of the Assembly again. They will then decide if they would like to adopt (accept, or agree with) the changes made in the amendment. If the members accept the changes, the bill gets reprinted with the changes added and then goes on to the third reading.

When a bill gets passed in the house of origin (this means where the bill started, either the Assembly or Senate), it will then go to the other house to go through the same steps again. An amendment to the bill can be added in the second house. The house of origin must agree, or concur, with the changes before the bill can move on. If they agree, the bill will pass. If they do not agree with the changes, the bill will fail.

After the bill is accepted and passed by both the Assembly and Senate, it gets sent to the Governor. Once the bill is with the Governor, he or she can choose to sign the bill or not. If the bill is signed, then it becomes a law! If the Governor does not sign the bill, it can still become a law but would not have the Governor’s official approval. Another option the Governor has is called a veto. A veto is when the Governor does not agree with the bill and chooses to use his or her power to prevent the bill from becoming a law.