Long path yet to go for prefiled bills

Proposed bills must pass through many stages before becoming a law.
Thursday, January 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

State bills may originate in either the Missouri House or the Senate. Lawmakers may introduce legislation after Dec. 1 for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. These proposals are prefiled and are introduced and read automatically at the onset of the session. Bills may also be introduced during the session.

After a bill is introduced and read, it is assigned to a committee that holds a public hearing on the issue. This phase may be the best opportunity for citizens to offer their input. The committee votes to either recommend or disapprove passage. Committee members can also suggest amendments to the bill.

If the bill passes out of committee, it is debated on the floor of the chamber in which it was introduced; amendments can be proposed and attached during this phase. The amended bill is then further debated before the entire chamber votes; a simple majority is required for passage. Bills that pass are sent to the other chamber, where it is read, referred to committee, debated and voted upon.

If passed by both chambers, the bill is then sent to governor, who can either sign it into law or veto it. After the governor signs the bill, it typically becomes law in 90 days. A veto requires a two-thirds majority in both houses to override the governor.

A proposal to amend the state constitution begins with a joint resolution, which, similar to a bill, must proceed through both chambers. Constitutional amendments must also be put before the state’s voters. A constitutional amendment would supersede any state law.

There are any number of places in the process where a legislative proposal can simply die. The speaker of the chamber assigns each bill to a committee, whose chair can decide not to hold hearings. Following hearings, the committee chair can also decide not to schedule a vote on the proposal. If the bill makes it out of committee, the chamber’s majority leader decides whether it is debated or voted on.

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