Understanding Legislative Language

Understanding Legislative Language
by Missouri Family Network

What does it mean?

As proposed bills moves through the legislative process they must fight through a gauntlet of opposition and “sausage grinding” steps. Each faces particular problems, but every bill must clear each basic step to become a law:

First reading - occurs when a bill is formally introduced in the Missouri General Assembly and enrolled to begin the legislative process.

Second reading - happens when the house or senate bill is assigned to its first committee in the chamber it was first introduced into. (Only House or Senate members may introduce bills.)

Public hearings - are held by the various legislative committees and no bill may be acted upon unless and until it has had a public hearing. ALL citizens are invited to participate in the hearing process.

Executive sessions - are those times when a committee formally debates the merits of bills they have ?heard? in public hearings. During this time amendments may be added, substitutes offered, bills joined together, or other alterations.

Do pass votes - are taken by committees during executive sessions and are required to be recorded votes. These votes are public record but generally available only through the committee secretary’s notebook.

Reported do pass - is the method by which a committee chairman sends a bill forward to the House Speaker or Senate Pro Tem, respectively, if it has managed to clear the committee?s approval.

ALL BILLS ADOPTED BY COMMITTEES AND REPORTED DO PASS MUST BE PLACED UPON THE CALENDAR (House & Senate respectively) BEFORE ADVANCING ANY FURTHER. ONCE A BILL IS ON THE CALENDAR IT MUST WAIT FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO CLEAR TWO MAIN HURDLES.

Perfection - after making it onto the House or Senate calendar, a bill waits in line for a “perfection debate.” It is at this time the bill may be amended, substituted, or altered in all kinds of ways. After this perfecting process, members will vote to support or reject the final draft. If this ?first round approval? is successful, the bill is placed on the third read calendar.

Third reading - can only occur no sooner than the next legislative day after “perfection.” The chamber which altered the bill during perfection is required to take time to consider what it did to the bill before a final vote is taken. If the bill receives an affirmative ?third read vote,? it has passed the chamber it was originally introduced in.

THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE PROCESS. EVERY HOUSE BILL THAT PASSES THE HOUSE MUST NOW FACE THE SAME PROCESS IN THE SENATE, AND ANY SENATE BILL PASSING THE SENATE MUST ALSO PASS THE HOUSE! THE WHOLE PROCESS STARTS OVER AGAIN!

Consent bills - must be non-controversial, have no significant fiscal cost, nor create any new crimes. These bills follow a faster track by attracting fewer obstacles and cannot be amended on the floor of the chamber (but may be altered in committee).

Conference committees - are assigned to find compromises between different House and Senate versions of a bill that has passed both chambers in different forms. No bill becomes law unless it is ultimately adopted by both bodies with no differences (not so much as a jot or tittle).