This is the second of a two part mini bonus episode series which Jeff covers how you can do your own research on laws, city charters, and state legislative bills with a little bit more ease. In this episode, Jeff walks you through some information about your Legislative Bills, the path of a Bill, and a brief insight on National Bills.
Let it be known…
We are not a layers and by no means does this episode stand to be a substitute for legal advice if you need it. Please use this information as a suggested way of better navigating your local information and seek actual legal counsel if you are going to be getting **involved with any matters regarding the state legislation or any other legal proceedings.
Your State Legislation
The first step is finding your state legislation. I will be talking about Nevada in these notes, but if you are in a different state, you can easily find it by googling your state legislature which will typically come up as the first choice or you can visit this congress.gov link .
Once you get to your state’s legislature website, you will usually see a lot of different options. In this episode we will be talking about Bills and your Revised Statutes or what may be just called Statutes
What is the difference between a bill and a law? A Bill is basically a suggested law that if approved and goes through all the channels and amendments successfully gets voted on and signed by the governor etc. it then becomes a part of that states law. That law can then be found in your states statutes
So depending on if you are trying to find out what is currently being proposed as a law or if you want to know what the actual law states, you will be looking for two different things.
To start lets look for a Bill, that is, a proposed law.
The first step is to find the Bills that are being worked on. These may be sorted out by sessions or other means, there may also be a search feature. Available. In Nevada You can do a search by keyword or go to that session and look for the bill. There is also access to NELIS for the state which lets you look for specific bills. Other states may have something similar, but you will need to refer to your state legislative website for more information.
Each state may label their bills differently. For example in Nevada they label them AB or SB for Assembly Bill or Senate Bill followed by a number.
Once you find and select a bill will see is usually a title and summary of the Bill, The date it was introduced and who is sponsoring it. You’ll also see that history and or status of the bill.
You will also see that some states provide video and/or written documents that show what happened in the meeting. This section may also include the minutes and agenda
In NELIS, you can also tab over to see the text of the bill, including any amendments made. Other states may have it listed elsewhere.
You can also see the votes, who voted what, and the final results. This is all important if you are trying to follow along with what is happening on a bill and can give you the most up to date time frame on where it is in legislation
Each bill will also have Fiscal Notes and additional Meeting Details. Not to mention you probably will find any reports, resources, witnesses, or exhibits that have been used by the committees or legislation.
Minutes and reports typically also will list who said what and what was said about concerns, questions, and answers. You may see power point presentations, documents and research that supports or doesn’t support the bill, etc. This is where your research will pay off if you are trying to explain what is really being said. So feel free to take some time digging through the research and see for yourself what your legislation is actually looking at.
A brief explanation of the life of a bill
It’s important to understand the general path of how a bill is passed. We won’t go to far into the details here but in short these are the general steps:
- A bill is first introduced by legislation which is considered the First Reading. It will be assigned a bill number and be assigned to a committee or committees based on the subject matter.
- This committee is then responsible for deciding if they wish to pursue it they will start looking at making amendments to the bill.
- If voted on by the committee, it then receives a second reading on the floor where proposed amendments are made and debated. It then gets voted on, it will go to a third reading which if it is voted on again, then it goes to the other chamber floor.
- Remember you have two sides of the legislation, the House and the Senate. When it goes to the second chamber they either approve it or offer amendments which means it has to go back to the first chamber.
- Once it does get approved through a series of readings, and both sides concur with any amendments made, it then gets sent off to the governor to either sign it or veto it. Which the governor either will sign or veto the law.
If you would like more visual version on the life of a bill you can also check out this diagram.
Questions to you, the listener
- Was this information helpful?
- What would you like to learn in future episodes?
- Do you notice the differences between the State and National Level?
Links and research
Visit your state legislation website:
The White House
Diagram on how a state bill is passed:
Nevada Electronic Legislative Information System (NELIS)
Robert’s Rules of Order
Official Website: http://robertsrules.com/
Wiki: Visit Here
Cheat Sheet: View the PDF Here