The legislative process was deliberately designed to take into account the need to hear from many points of view, so it is involved and arduous and sometimes frustrating to the casual observer. For these reasons and others, only a small percentage of introduced bills actually make it into law. I won’t recount every possible scenario and exception to the rule, but here’s a very simple overview of how a bill goes through the legislative process in Oklahoma.
Each bill must have a House and Senate author, because each bill goes through the same legislative process in each chamber.
The first three weeks of session are the busiest, in my opinion, as legislation makes its way through committee hearings in both chambers. The Committee Chairs decide whether or not to hear bills; and many bills die without receiving a committee hearing. If the bill is heard by the committee, language can be amended or substituted, and the bills are debated and voted on by the entire committee.
If a bill passes a Senate committee, it must receive permission by the Floor Leader before being considered by the full Senate. Amendments, language substitutions and debate are part of the floor procedure as well. Many bills die on the Senate floor simply because they don’t have enough votes to pass.
If a bill passes through committee and is successful on the Senate floor, it proceeds to the House of Representatives where the process is repeated, including a committee assignment, a vote in committee and a vote on the floor of the House.
If the bill completes this process with the title on, the bill will be sent to the Governor’s office for her consideration. If she signs the bill, it will become law. If the bill has been amended, or if the title or enacting clause has been stricken, or if any amendments have not been accepted, the bill proceeds to a conference committee.
If the original author of the bill rejects the other chamber’s amendments, the bill goes to a conference committee. If either the House or Senate leadership refuse to appoint conferees, the bill dies. If conferees are assigned, the bill has to receive a majority support of both House and Senate conference committee members. This means the author of the bill must present the bill again in the committee environment.
If the conference committee approves the bill, it must again go to a full vote of the entire House and Senate. If it does not receive a hearing on the floor, the bill dies. If both legislative chambers approve the bill, it is sent to the Governor for her signature. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it can be overridden by a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate. If the Governor signs the bill, it becomes law.
Throughout the process, the language of a bill very often changes. You will see that I may vote for a bill in committee, but not vote for it in on the floor (or vice versa); many times, that is because the language of the bill has changed to the point where either I can now support its passage, or must vote against. You will find my office very hesitant to promise to vote a certain way on a bill if the legislation is still in the process and the language is subject to change. Last minute changes are not always friendly, and I want to be careful at each stage of the bill’s process to vote in the best interests of the citizens of Oklahoma.
Any interested person can follow a bill’s progress if you know its number. Visit www.oksenate.gov, select Legislation from the top menu; then choose Basic Bill Search. Entering the number of the bill in the form provided will generate the bill’s short title, history, any amendments, bill summaries, versions, votes and co-authors.
The bills that are passed through this legislative process affect your life in specific ways. I invite you to become involved and contact my office with your viewpoints. Be sure to include your name, address, the bill numbers if you have them, and your viewpoint on the subject matter. I’m always glad to hear from the constituents in my district, and I value your input.
Until next time,
Senator Mark Allen