Drafting of Bills
A bill is a proposed law. Anyone can propose an idea for a bill to a legislator: a private citizen, a corporation, a professional association, a special-interest advocacy group, a state agency or even a city or county. But all bills must be sponsored by one or more legislators to be considered by the General Assembly. A bill may be drafted by any competent person, although the Legislative Services Commission’s Bill Drafting Division drafts bills at the request of the members of the General Assembly. The Office of the Attorney General has the statutory duty to draft bills at the request of the state’s many departments and agencies (called “agency bills”), and for the General Assembly in general. This means that legislators have two separate offices to which they may turn for drafts of bills. However, most every bill filed is drafted or re-drafted by the Legislative Services Commission before being introduced.
Introduction of Bills
Only a member of the General Assembly may introduce a bill – that is, present it to the General Assembly for its consideration. That legislator is called the bill’s Primary Sponsor. Up to three other legislators may join the first-position Primary Sponsor as Sponsors of the bill, but an unlimited number of members can join the Sponsors as “co-sponsors” of the bill. House rules set a maximum of ten bills for which a member may be a first-position Primary Sponsor. The Senate has no such limitation.
A member wishing to introduce a bill must have first filed it with the Principal Clerk’s office on the previous legislative day. There, it is stamped with an official number and logged-in electronically for tracking purposes so that legislators and the public can more easily follow its progress. When the body goes into session, the presiding officer (the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate or their designees) announces the time for the “Introduction of Bills and Resolutions.” The Reading Clerk then reads aloud the name of the bill’s sponsors, the bill’s number, and the bill’s title — at this point the bill has passed its First Reading. Typically, just the title is read aloud (as opposed to the entire bill) for the sake of brevity — as legislation often runs to many thousands of words and hundreds of pages. Before technological advances like photocopiers and the Internet, bills were read in their entirety. All members receive full electronic copies of the bill.
The Path to Becoming Law
The following graphic gives you a picture for how a bill is drafted, introduced and then moves its wah through the General Assembly.