Understanding Bill Statuses

While the legislative process is different in every state, bills generally need to follow several steps in order to become law. Here’s an explanation of some of the terms we use in our State Action Center. You can learn more about how a bill becomes law in your state by looking for a guide on your state legislature’s webpage.

  1. Introduced: A legislator has drafted and filed the bill.
  2. Referred to committee: After a bill is filed, it is usually referred to a committee made up of a small number of legislators. There are several possible actions the committee might take:
    • The committee might decide to have a hearing on the bill, where they might debate the bill or give members of the public a chance to voice their opinions (or “testify”).
    • The committee might decide to vote on the bill. If they pass the bill, it can move forward to a vote by the full House or Senate. If they don’t pass the bill, it is defeated.
    • The committee might decide to table the bill, in which case it is usually defeated.
    • The committee might also decide to do nothing. In many cases, if the committee doesn’t vote on a bill by a certain deadline, the bill is defeated.
  3. Sent to a full House/Senate vote: If a bill passes through a committee, it moves to a vote in the House or the Senate, depending on where the bill was first introduced. If one of the chambers votes to pass the bill, it goes to the other chamber for a vote. Both chambers need to vote in favor of the bill for it to move forward.
  4. Sent to the governor: If the bill has passed through both the House and the Senate, it goes to the governor to be signed or vetoed. The governor usually has a set number of days to make a decision.
  5. Signed/vetoed by the governor: If the bill has been signed by the governor, it has become law. If the has been vetoed, it is defeated unless the legislature can override the governor’s veto.

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