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How a Bill Becomes Law

How a bill becomes law.
This is a quick primer on how a General Assembly bill becomes a law. The terminology will help you to track legislation.

First a senator or delegate comes up with an idea for a bill. The idea can be their own or a suggestion from a constituent or simply copycat legislation from another state.

The delegate or senator takes this idea to the Division of Legislative Services. This division creates the bill, has it signed by the patron of the bill and has it introduced and printed. Delegates and senators do not have to use the division to write a bill but this is the usual case.

The bill then gets its first reading before the House or Senate and is referred to the appropriate committee. Keep in mind that not all vehicle bills go to the Transportation Committees.

The committee or sub-committee that is assigned the bill decides on what action to take. They may pass it out of committee, kill it, carry it over to another session, etc. This is where the public can have input into the process. Citizens can speak before the committee and/or phone, email or fax the committee members their opinions.

If the bill makes it out of committee it is read a second time before the body. The bill can be amended and/or debated. It can then be engrossed. If it is amended it will be reprinted.

Next is the third reading of the bill. The clerk reads the bill number and it is voted upon.

If the bill passes then it is sent to the other body of the General Assembly. There it undergoes the same process of committee assignment and the three readings.

If the bill passes the second body it is enrolled and signed by the presiding officers of both houses. If the bill is amended in the second body then a Committee of Conference is held where some members of both houses work out a compromise.

The bill next goes to the governor who can sign the bill into law or veto it. If the governor signs the bill it goes to the Clerk of the House and is assigned a chapter number. The chapter number is used to place the new law in the Code of Virginia. The bill will become a law usually on July 1st after a session unless the bill was written to become law at a different time.

As you follow the process of a bill you will note the dates of the readings, when it was engrossed, etc.

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