As we approach the start of another legislative session, you will begin to hear a lot from legislators about bills they hope to author and introduce in 2014. However, before we get into the specifics, I want to get back to the basics and talk about how a bill becomes a law.
As I have shared before, the idea for many bills comes from legislators who are out in their districts hearing what their constituents want and need. In fact, all of the bills that I will be presenting in 2014 came to me from constituents. After a bill is drafted, it is first read by title on the House floor. At that point, the Speaker of the House, State Representative Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis), assigns the bill to a committee whose job is to consider the merits of the legislation. Last session, I was the chairman of Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, in addition to serving as a member of the committees on Financial Institutions and Roads and Transportation.
Once the bill has been assigned to a committee, the committee can vote to amend the language and/or make additions or deletions. These committee hearings are always open to the public and are streamed live on the Internet. If the bill passes out of the committee with a simple majority, then the bill can be discussed before the entire House for amendments, called Second Reading.
On Second Reading, the bill is ready for amendment, recommitment or engrossment. This means that legislators can propose amendments to the bill as is, recommit it to another committee for further exploration or move forward with no alterations. Any amendments must win the approval of a majority of legislators before the new bill can be ordered to engrossment.
This brings the bill up for Third Reading where legislators have the opportunity to debate the merits of the bill before it is put up for a final vote. In order to pass and move onto the Senate, the bill must receive 51 votes. Once the completed bill is presented to the Senate, this process begins all over again.
The Senate is then able to make amendments as well, however the House would still have to agree to those amendments. If the House refuses to give their consent, a conference committee is established to work out the differences, with two members from the House and two members from the Senate. All four members must sign the conference committee report, and then it must be passed by both the House and Senate.
In the final stage of the process, the bill is sent to the governor. The governor sends each bill he receives to the attorney general so that it can be examined for legality. Once he gets the “go-ahead” from the attorney general, the governor can either sign the bill or, if he does not sign it within seven days, it becomes law without his signature. Unless otherwise specified in the bill, all new laws become effective July 31 of that same year.
As you can see, this is a very extensive process. Each bill is given an in-depth look and vetted through the same manner. In fact, the process is so strenuous that on average, only two or three of every 10 measures introduced survives the course to become law. When a bill is passed in the Indiana legislature, you can rest assured that it was given proper inspection and assessed not only on its merits but also its lawfulness.
Rep. Frye (R-Greensburg) represents Ohio and Switzerland counties, as well as portions of Ripley, Decatur, Jennings, Jefferson and Dearborn counties.