The Stages of a Bill
From Introduction to Signed into Law
Legislators come up with ideas for bills based on individual experience, feedback they've received from constituents, and presentations by lobbyists. For some of those bills, the end result will be the governor signing the bill into law. Here, we'll talk about all the stages in between.
We'll try and go a bit deeper than School House Rock, though they did a pretty great job!
1st Reading- A bill is introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Upon introduction, it receives a bill number and committee assignments in that chamber. In Colorado, all bills are required to be heard by committee.
Committee Hearings - Committee hearings are where the members of the public are able to comment on the bill. You may choose to do that by testifying in the committee in person, by video, or by contacting members of the committee. Committees may vote to move a bill forward or to postpone indefinitely. A bill that is postponed indefinitely is considered a "dead bill," and will not move forward to the next stages unless it is reintroduced and passes. If a bill is passed, it will either go to the next committee in that chamber or, if it has passed all committees it was assigned to, it will go to the floor for 2nd Reading.
See: How Do I Prepare to Testify in Committee and What Should I Include in my Email to a Committee for tips!
Appropriations Committee - Any bill that has a fiscal note attached to it, must be heard and passed by the Appropriations Committee of both chambers. The Appropriations Committees are responsible for understanding the bills impact on the state budget and public testimony is generally not allowed during Appropriations hearings.
2nd Reading - After passing the assigned committees, bills will go to 2nd Reading on the floor. This is a vote by all members of the chamber, and proposing amendments is allowed. If a bill is at this stage and you would like to express your opinion on it, it is best to contact your Senator or Representative.
See: Finding and Calling My Legislators for tips!
3rd Reading - After passing 2nd Reading, a bill must wait to be heard for 24 hours before 3rd Reading.* This is another vote by all members of the chamber. Occasionally, amendments will be proposed but they are most often done during 2nd Reading. This is also an opportunity to call your Senator or Representative and encourage them to vote yes or no on the bill.
Once a bill passes 3rd Reading, it will move to the other chamber and repeat the process. For example, a bill passed in the House will go to the Senate or a bill passed in the Senate will go to the House where it will be scheduled for 1st Reading.
Reconciliation - If the 2nd chamber makes amendments to a bill, the bill will return to the original chamber it was heard in. For example, if the Senate makes changes to a House bill, the amended bill will return to the House and be read on the floor for a vote. If the original chamber does not agree, a committee will be formed with members of both the House and Senate to discuss how to amend the bill in a way it can be passed.
Signed by the Governor - After a bill passes both chambers with matching language, it will go to the Governor to be signed into law. The Governor may choose to veto a bill, forcing legislators to re-write it and begin the process again or gather enough votes to override the veto.
*Rules are generally suspended in the final week of the legislative session, allowing for 2nd and 3rd Reading on the same day.