How a Bill Becomes a Law, and What You Can Do About It
The Alabama Legislature meets every year during a regular session. Sessions are limited to 30 legislative days (when the chambers are on the floor) over 105 calengar days. Although the dates change, regular session usually starts in January and will run about 15 weeks. Track bills at the Alabama Lesiglative Information System Online (ALISON).
How a Bill Becomes a Law
1. The bill is filed and sent to committee.
No bill can become an act until it has been read on three separate days in each house. The first reading occurs when the bill is first introduced. Reference to committee immediately follows the first reading.
2. The committee considers the bill.
The committees of each house meet and ocnsider the bills that have been referred to them. Committee members vote to approve the bill, amend it, or send it to subcommittee for further discussion.
Bills that receive a majority vote are reported favorably, given a second reading, and placed on the regular calendar. Bills that do not are typically dead.
3. The bill is debated on the floor.
Bills are listed on the calendar in the order they are reported from committee. The Rules Committee can vote to place a bill on the Special Order Calendar in order to bring the bill to the top of the calendar. Otherwise, the bill must wait its turn, which can take some time given the number of bills filed.
When the bill is reached on the calendar, the bill gets its third reading. At this time, the whole house studies, debates, and amends the bill. Separate votes are taken on each amendment or change to the bill.
4. They vote.
After the bill has been debated, each member votes. If a 51% majority of those present vote in favor of the bill, it passes. Otherwise, it fails.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 in the other chamber.
If the second house makes changes to the bill, the bill is sent back to the house of origin for consideration of the amendment. Both chambers must pass identical versions of the same bill in order for it to go to the Governor's desk.
If the second house does not approve it in committee or it is not considered by the full house, then the bill is dead.
6. The Governor decides to sign or veto.
When the bill reaches the Governor, if it is signed, it completes its enactment into law. If the Governor disapproves, it can be vetoes and returned to the originiating house for consideration. The legislature can override a veto with a simple majority (51%) vote.
Before a Bill is introduced:
- Research the issues, and your legislators.
- Connect with local special interest groups that analyze policy to learn about the bills they are supporting or opposing.
- Encourage your legislators to introduce bills on issues that you care about.
- Tell others why legislators need to act by sharing information in person, online, and in the news.
NOTE: Check the ALISON Database often. This includes information about all bills, as well as the calendar for the day.
When a Bill is in committee:
- Contact committee members to ask them to support, reject, or amend the bill. Recruit your friends to contact them as well.
- Attend public hearings. Testify at the hearing for or against the bill, particularly if you have a personal story.
NOTE: A public hearing request must be submitted to the committee chair BEFORE the bill is set for committee.
When a Bill is on the floor:
- Contact your legislator to support, reject, or amend the bill. Ask your friends to do the same.
- Tell people why you think the bill should or should not pass by posting on social media or writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper.
When a Bill is on the Governor's desk:
- Contact the Governor's office to encourage signing or vetoing.
- Identify other people who may have special influence with the Governor, and contact them.
NOTE: If you don't get the outcome you're hoping for, stay positive. Passing quality legislation takes time.