A bill for an act is an idea for a new law or an idea to change or abolish an existing law. Ideas follow ten steps on their way to becoming Minnesota laws.
1. The idea: Anyone can propose an idea for a bill—an individual, a consumer group, a corporation, a professional association, a governmental unit, the governor—but most frequently ideas come from members of the legislature.
2. The chief author: Each bill must have a legislator to introduce it. The chief author’s name appears first on the bill with the bill’s file number as identification while it moves through the legislative process.
3. Other authors: There may be up to 34 coauthors from the house and four from the senate. Their names also appear on the bill.
4. The revisor of statutes: The revisor puts the idea into the proper legal form as a bill for introduction into the house of representatives or the senate, usually both. The revisor also updates Minnesota Statutes after the legislative session to include all new laws.
5. Introduction: When introduced in the house, a bill receives a house file number (H.F. 2312, for example); in the senate, a senate file number (S.F. 503, for example). These numbers indicate the bill’s chronological order of introduction in each body.
6. Committee consideration: Next, the bill has its first reading (the Minnesota constitution requires three readings for all bills on three separate days), and the presiding officer of the house or senate refers it to an appropriate standing committee.
All committee meetings are open to the public. A committee may:
After acting on a bill, the committee sends a report to the house or senate, stating its actions and recommendations.
7. General Register and General Orders: After the full house or senate accepts the committee report, the bill has its second reading and is placed on the house agenda, called the General Register, or the senate agenda, called General Orders. (A committee can recommend that noncontroversial bills bypass the General Register or General Orders and go onto the Consent Calendar, where bills usually pass without debate.) After this point, house and senate procedures differ slightly.
In the house, the General Register serves as a parking lot where bills await action by the full body. Bills chosen to appear on the Calendar for the Day or the Fiscal Calendar are drawn from the General Register.
The senate uses a different procedure. Bills are listed on the General Orders agenda. Senate members, acting as the “committee of the whole,” have a chance to debate the issue and offer amendments on the bill. Afterward, they vote to recommend passage of the bill, progress (delay action), or further committee action, and sometimes they recommend that a bill not pass. From here, the bill is placed on the calendar.
8. Calendar: In the house, the Calendar for the Day is a list of bills the house rules and legislative administration has designated for the full house to vote on. Members can vote to amend the bill, and after amendments are dispensed with, the bill is given its third reading before the vote of the full body is taken. The house also has a Fiscal Calendar, on which the chair of the house ways and means committee or house taxes committee can call up for consideration any tax or finance bill that has had a second reading. The bills are debated, amended, and passed in one day.
In the senate, bills approved by the “committee of the whole” are placed on the calendar. At this point, the bill has its third reading, after which time the bill cannot be amended unless the entire body agrees to it. Toward the end of the session, the senate committee on rules and administration designates bills from the General Orders calendar to receive priority consideration. These Special Orders bills are debated, amended, and passed in one day.
To pass, a bill needs the votes of a majority of the quorum in each body. If the house and senate each pass the same version of the bill, it goes to the governor for a signature.
9. Conference committee: When the house and the senate both pass the same version of a bill, that bill goes to the governor for approval or disapproval. If the house and senate do not agree, a conference committee, including members of both houses, meets to reach an agreement. If both bodies then pass the bill in compromise form, it goes to the governor.
10. The governor: When a bill arrives, the governor may:
If the governor does not sign or veto a bill within three days after receiving it, while the legislature is in session, the bill becomes a law.
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