As we complete our third week of the session, the procedural process in the Senate begins to have an impact on what issues we ultimately will get to vote on. For this reason, I’d like to take the time to review how this process works.
The first two weeks of session included several ceremonial events like the governor’s Condition of the State address, as well as several introductory meetings in our committees. Now that these events have passed, we are getting into the heart of the legislative process.
The first step of the process is the subcommittee. This is the first hearing on a bill by a group of three legislators. This is a fairly informal process where anybody interested in the bill can give their input. In order for the bill to continue through the process, at least two of the three legislators must sign off on the bill. There are dozens of subcommittees every day as many bills are getting their first hearing. I am working on dozens of bills in the subcommittee process right now.
If a bill passes out of the subcommittee, it moves on to the full committee. There are 17 standing full committees, each consisting of between 11 and 21 members. The full committee is a more formal meeting where the Senators discuss the merits of a particular bill. While we sometimes have outside speakers address the committee, most of the conversation is limited to discussion between the Senators. In order for a bill to make it out of the full committee, it must receive a majority vote.
If a bill survives the full committee, it is placed on the calendar of bills that are eligible for debate. Just because a bill passes out of the subcommittee and the full committee does not mean it will reach the Senate floor for a final vote. The Majority Leader of the Senate decides which bills actually come up for a vote by the whole Senate. A bill can only become law by passing this final vote, along with passage in the House and the signature of the Governor.
So far this session, we have only passed one resolution on its final vote on the floor. However, there are several dozen bills making their way through subcommittee and the full committees. Starting next week, I expect there will be a lot more floor debate and final votes.
Combining a passion for certain issues along with an understanding of the legislative process is the surest way for you to have an impact. I see my job as truly representing you, so please do not hesitate to have your voice heard.
I have many constituents that are interested in different bills, whether it is school start date, school bullying, income taxes or fireworks. If you have a bill that you are following, the next few weeks are critical for the success of the bill. Please reach out if you are tracking a bill through the process so I know what is important to you. As always, feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.