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How a Law is Passed in the Georgia General Assembly

Legislator sees the need for a new law or changes in existing law and decides to introduce a bill.

  1. Legislator goes to Office of Legislative Counsel*. There, attorney advises legislator on legal issues and drafts a bill. *LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL The full-time legislative staff agency consisting of attorneys who provide a variety of legal services to members of the General Assembly. The chief responsibility of the Office of Legislative Counsel is to assist members who desire to introduce a bill by researching the proposed law and then drafting the bill in proper format.

  2. Legislator files bill with the Clerk of the House* or Secretary of the Senate**. *CLERK OF THE HOUSE The chief staff officer of the House of Representatives. The Clerk is not a legislator but rather a full-time official who duties include receiving, numbering, and printing copies of all bills and resolutions introduced in the House; recording all committee reports and floor votes on measures; and maintaining the official record of legislative action in the House. **SECRETARY OF THE SENATE The chief staff officer of the Senate and counterpart to the Clerk of the House. The Secretary is not a legislator but rather a full-time official who duties include receiving, numbering, and printing copies of all bills and resolutions introduced in the Senate; recording all committee reports and floor votes on measures; and maintaining the official record of legislative action in the Senate.

3.On legislative day after filing, bill is formally introduced. In chamber, bill’s title* is read during period of 1st readings. *BILL TITLE The formal introduction of a bill, required by the Georgia Constitution, that shows the sections of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated that are affected by the bill and the principal subject matter of the bill. The title prefaces the main body of a bill, and is always founded preceding the phrase, “Be It Enacted by the General Assembly of Georgia.” It is the title of the bill that is read aloud in the chamber.

  1. Immediately after 1st reading, presiding officer assigns bill to a standing committee*. *STANDING COMMITTEE One of a group of permanent legislative committees in each house that study bills that have been introduced and make recommendations to the full house as to whether such bills should be supported. Standing committees are organized around functional areas (e.g., agriculture, education, and health). Generally, no bill can be considered on the floor of a house until reported favorably from standing committee. The list of standing committees is provided for in the rules of each house. Officers and members of standing committees are named by the presiding officer of each house.

  2. In the House only, on next legislative day, Clerk reads bill’s title (2d reading) in chamber, although actual bill is now in committee. In Senate, 2d reading comes after bill is reported favorably from committee.

  3. Bill considered by committee. Author and other legislators may testify. If controversial, public hearings may be held.

  4. Bill is reported favorably by committee and returned to Clerk or Secretary.

  5. Clerk or Secretary prepares a General Calendar* of bills favorably reported from committee. For first 10 days of session in House (15 days in the Senate) presiding officer calls up bills from this calendar for floor action. *GENERAL CALENDAR A daily listing of bills and resolutions that have been reported favorably from committee and are ready for floor consideration. The general calendar is prepared throughout the session and governs the daily agenda in the House and Senate until the rules calendar takes over.

  6. Starting with 10th day of session in House (15th day in Senate), the Rules Committee meets and from bills on General Calendar prepares a Rules Calendar* for the next day’s floor consideration. *RULES CALENDAR The daily legislative agenda prepared from bills and resolutions on the general calendar by the rules committee in each house. The rules calendar is in effect in the House and Senate for the last 25 days of a regular session.

  7. For the last 30 days of session in House (25 days in Senate), presiding officer calls up bills, from the Rules Calendar for floor consideration.

  8. Once presiding officer calls bill up from Rules Calendar, Clerk reads bill’s title (3d reading). Bill is now ready for floor debate, amendments, and voting.

  9. After debate, main question* is called and members vote. If bill is approved by majority of total membership of that house, it is sent to the other house. *MAIN QUESTION In parliamentary procedure, the principal issue before a house – as opposed to amendments and procedural motions. In the House and Senate, a call for the main question is a motion to vote on final passage of a bill or resolution as amended.

  10. If second house passes bill, it is returned to house where bill was introduced. If changes are accepted,…move to Step 14. If the first house rejects changes and second house insists, a conference committee* may be appointed. If committee report is accepted by both houses,…move to Step 14. *CONFERENCE COMMITTEE A special committee consisting of three members from each house appointed by the presiding officers to seek a compromise when the two houses have passed different versions of the same bill and insist on their respective positions. In the motion to create a conference committee, each house can vote to instruct or not instruct its members on that committee. If the members are able to reach agreement, a copy of the compromise version of the bill is distributed to members of each house. In each house, a vote is taken to agree or disagree with the conference committee report. If both houses agree, the bill is passed. If they cannot agree, another conference committee can be appointed; otherwise, the bill dies.

  11. Bill is enrolled* and sent to the Governor (if requested). Otherwise, all enrolled bills sent to Governor following adjournment sine die**. *ENROLLMENT Preparation of the final and official copy of a bill or resolution as passed by both houses. With enrollment, the Speaker and Clerk of the House, and President and Secretary of the Senate, certify that relevant constitutional requirements for passing a bill were complied with in their respective houses. Enrollment is the final step before a bill is sent to the governor for signing. **ADJOURNMENT SINE DIE The final adjournment of a legislative session for the year. The term literally means adjournment without a day [for reconvening].

  12. Governor may sign bill or do nothing, and bill becomes law. Governor may veto bill, which requires two-thirds of members of each house to override.

  13. Act and other laws enacted at the session are printed in the Georgia Laws* series. Also, act is incorporated into the Official Code of Georgia Annotated**. *GEORGIA LAWS The title of the annual series that contains the full text of each law and joint resolution enacted by the General Assembly at that year’s legislative session. In addition, for each act or resolution, the series includes the original House or Senate number, act number, and date signed by the governor. Vol. I of the series contains general acts and resolutions, while Vol. II has local acts and resolutions. An example of how laws are cited from this series would be: Ga. Laws 1999, p. 46. **OFFICIAL CODE OF GEORGIA ANNOTATED The official compiliation of all Georgia statutory law arranged by subject area, along with annotations of relevant state and federal court decisions, attorney general opinions, law review articles, and other related legal information. Georgia’s official code consists of 44 volumes organized into 53 code “titles” (major subject areas), which are further subdivided into “chapters,” which in turn are subdivided into “sections” (the basic component of the O.C.G.A.).

Act becomes effective the following July 1, unless a different effective date is provided in act.

Text from How a Bill is Passed in the Georgia Legislature, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia